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O’Connor: Living it up downtown
Did you get a chance to see the Downtown Home Tour last weekend? If so, then you got a glimpse of what it’s like to live in the heart of Oklahoma City.
The tour showcased nine properties ranging from renovated historic buildings like Carnegie Centre and The Sieber to more recent construction including The Edge and The Hill at Bricktown.
If you weren’t able to take the tour, you can still see how living in downtown is positively impacting the city. Currently, almost 9,000 people live downtown, and the density is expected to increase with more than 1,000 additional residential units presently under construction or planned. In addition to the increase in the number of residential units, those units are providing a variety of bedroom mix, which has helped to attract families downtown. This growth is a good indication of the health and vibrancy of downtown. More people living in the urban core means that there are many options for people to live, work and play.
Increased density also fuels retail sales growth. It is estimated that the typical downtown resident spends between three and four times annually what the typical downtown employee spends on goods and services downtown. A robust urban population will draw more retail, entertainment and restaurants. Some stores, such as an urban grocery store, can only be attracted when there are enough people living nearby to ensure a steady customer base.
The key to developing housing in the urban core is intentional planning and a healthy mix of diverse incomes, lifestyles, types of housing and building use. This year’s Downtown Home Tour featured for sale and rental properties available at market rates. Our focus now is to continue expanding the mix with affordable housing options, such as the proposed mixed-use development near the new convention center and Omni Hotel.
The strength of downtown has always centered on its diversity of uses and its role as the heart of the community. It is evident that our downtown is thriving and that other developments such as the Oklahoma City Streetcar, Scissortail Park, the new convention center and the Omni hotel will continue to add to the quality of life in the area.
Cathy O’Connor is president of the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City.