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  • Cathy O'Connor

Knitting the innovation district together

This spring the Brookings Institution and the Project for Public Spaces presented the results and recommendations of an 18-month study of an innovation district. Among the recommendations was to “create a denser, more active, and better-connected mixed-use urban environment in and around the innovation district.

Imagine riding a bike instead of a car to your job at the OU Health Center, or even strolling across 1-235 to grab a bite to eat at a restaurant in Automobile Alley? It may be hard to visualize with our current infrastructure, but it is possible.

The Alliance, along with city staff and other innovation district partners and stakeholders, are exploring multiple ways to bring better connectivity to the area. The ideas range from low cost and relatively quick to implement to grander concepts that inspire us to think about our infrastructure in a new light.

The easier solutions to connectivity are to improve pedestrian and bicycle access on NE 10th Street, NE 13th Street, and existing bridges over I-235. Developing “complete streets” in the area that promote walking, biking and safe driving would add to connectivity. One idea is to narrow the roadways, such as Lottie and NE 8th Street, adding protected bike lanes and wider sidewalks. Adding attractive paving, safer mid-block crossings, better lighting and signage, and even public art could encourage walking and biking and make the activities more interesting.

Bigger ideas include the thought of a highway cap over I-235. While this may seem like a grand concept - the time and cost to build would be extensive - several cities have successfully built highway cap projects such as Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, Texas, and the Cap at Union Station in Columbus, Ohio, that connects the Short North Arts district.

These are just a few ideas of how we can encourage a more walkable and connected city. I am certain that as the district evolves more ideas--even innovative ones we haven't considered yet--will emerge. A great example of the power and potential of the district we want to connect.

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