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Streetcar brings prosperity along route
It is still more than a month before the Oklahoma City Streetcar system officially begins service, but we are already seeing its economic impact. The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber recently presented the results of an investment impact analysis of the streetcar system to the City Council.
The analysis evaluated public and private investment within a three-block impact zone since the route was proposed in 2011. The analysis was conducted by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and RegionTrack in collaboration with Embark, the city of Oklahoma City and the Alliance for Economic Development.
Based on the experience of other cities with recently constructed streetcar systems, we anticipated properties on either side of the streetcar route would experience economic impact in terms of added housing and commercial growth. Before streetcar service has even begun, the Oklahoma City report shows the taxable market value of properties around the streetcar route has increased more than three times the rate of citywide properties, and taxable private property values have grown by 115 percent.
The analysis also showed that since 2011, there has been more than $1.6 billion in public and private investment along the streetcar route. To date, private investment, such as the new hotels recently opened and under construction, the new restaurants and entertainment in midtown, west downtown and other areas and the restoration of historic buildings, is $801.9 million. The public investment includes the Oklahoma City Convention Center, Scissortail Park, Project 180 and public infrastructure improvements.
The investment impact analysis is a valuable economic benchmark. We can expect even more economic growth once the streetcar system is in service. Downtown businesses in Kansas City reported more than an 80 percent increase in foot traffic with streetcar service. Many of the largest and most frequently visited entertainment venues in our state are located along the Oklahoma City streetcar route. We can expect greater foot traffic along the route and also in surrounding areas close to the streetcar route such as Deep Deuce and the Arts District.
As more people spend their money at local businesses along the route, more investors will want to be a part of the thriving area and will bring new businesses and amenities. As the report highlights, the streetcar is more than transit, it brings economic development and prosperity along the route.
Cathy O’Connor is the president of the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City.