October 30, 2016 – Overcast, 75 degrees
Miles Today: 48
Miles to Date: 18,712
States to Date: 46
Oklahoma City went from 0 to 10,000 citizens in a day: April 29, 1889. For the next hundred years, OKC continued to be a boom and bust place: many credit the 1980’s recession with the failure of Oklahoma City’s Penn Square Bank.
In the 1990’s, while the city was still recovering from the fallout of Penn Square, Mayor Ron Norick and the Chamber of Commerce proposed MAPS (Metropolitan Area Projects), an innovative way to fund specific capital projects bundled together for broad appeal through a one percent city sales tax, overseen by a citizen’s committee rather than a government agency, and built with cash derived from the tax rather than bonds. Over the past twenty years, voters have passed three specific MAPS initiatives. In the process, OKC has boosted its urban core, diversified its economy, and become nationally known as both a progressive and easy place to do business.
I cycled through downtown on a lazy Sunday afternoon, visiting the Boathouse District (OKC created a permanent basin off the North Canadian River to become the center of US Olympic Rowing), and Bricktown, a San Antonio-like canal and warehouse district.
OKC’s initiatives are not limited to downtown. A few blocks from where I lived in the 1980’s an abandoned theater and grocery store became home to the Lyric Theater. The city throttled traffic and expanded the sidewalks. The Plaza District became the hot place to be in a city that, for many years, had few cohesive places at all.