Tulsa's year-long Centennial celebration in 2007 was undoubtedly a festive, honorary event of our state's history. While we looked to our past and the contributions to our identity as Oklahomans, we also made plans for future progress.
In 2008, we seemed to take a city-wide oath declaring that it was time to put our best foot forward and to take action, establishing our own place on the map. Some might argue we leapt forward, biting off more than we could chew and building structures with an expiration date. Others might say the city is right on track, moving at a healthy, strategic pace.
Either way you look at it, things are happening. From hotel projects to ballparks to restaurant, bar and venue openings, our cityscape is already shifting under our feet. We are adopting urban characteristics that will focus on the revitalization of downtown and its vibrant street life.
But if we want our city to flourish, it must offer choices and freedom for its citizens, who, in turn, should feel confident to voice their concerns and opinions.
At Urban Tulsa Weekly, we're obliged to be the voice of the people and their needs. We keep track of the promises and offered securities. We take note of the potential and the possibilities. You can count on our collective memory as your year-end reality check. We keep a finger on the pulse of the city, and sometimes we even like to push a few buttons (we're so good at it, yeah?). We made it our job to keep City leaders in check, assuring they were making well-planned investments for the betterment of Tulsa. We also applauded them when necessary, and patted Mayor Taylor on the back for her go-get-'em attitude.
So, what we are going to do here is refresh your memory and take you back to a little place we'd like to call 2008. Yes, it wasn't long ago, but it's a thing of the past, so we reflect, ponder and then move the hell on to 2009. You can look forward to our Hot 100 list in next week's issue.
But for now, our trip down memory lane finds us at 2nd and Denver, staring up at the monstrosity that is the BOK Center; it finds us at Archer and Elgin; admiring the site of the new Drillers Stadium; it finds us north of Pine Street where the food desert now has water on the horizon; it finds us at 101st and Memorial, wondering when South Tulsa became so happenin'.
In 2007 and 2008, we dreamt big, but what accomplishments were made? Did we invite enough urban planners and researchers to our city to chew it up and spit out all the answers? Through it all, UTW has been keeping score, reporting on the best and worst news of the year and providing a much-needed dose of reality.
So, we've compiled a list of the year's Best and Worst news, events and happenings. And, we've made a few predictions for 2009.
Some we hope will come true, and others we definitely don't. Either way, we hope the following offers a few laughs and a little insight into Tulsa in 2008 and beyond. Happy New Year!
Best Thing About 2008: The BOK Center. It recently won the 2008 Prime Site award from Facilities Magazine. Goodness... We were hard on this one, but the varied lineup and the anticipation it brings have offered another vital boost to downtown's nightlife. There's no argument it will help to bring attention and dollars to downtown.
Worst Thing About 2008: One and a half words: Sem. Group. Tulsa was one learning environment that really didn't want to hear about Chapter 11. But, four months later, "bankruptcy" is the nation's buzzword. Way to be ahead of the times, SemGroup! Who knows? Maybe this bizillionaire from New York City will save the day.
Most Constructive Event: The PLANiTULSA meetings. And hopefully urban planners and Tulsa citizens will make good use of them and take care of business. Our fingers are crossed that the city will soothe any hiccups in the way (read: outdated zoning codes).
Tulsa County's Worst Moment: We don't have to flip too far back in the archives to get into this one. If Tulsa County and the City of Tulsa don't work this one out soon, we might as well hold off on making arrests and just let all the jailbirds go.
Biggest Boom of the Year: Presenting the biggest and brightest firework display in Tulsa history, QuikTrip Corp.'s 50th anniversary party takes to the fields of West Tulsa. The best company to work for in Tulsa gets even better -- and more hip - with age. Now, we can look forward to the new park the company is building at 41st and Riverside. Let's just hope this Silver Star doesn't fall from the sky.
Best New Arts Investment: The Mathew's Warehouse project. Philbrook plans the opening of its recently acquired Eugene B. Adkins collection in the soon-to-be restored warehouse in downtown's Brady district. The Oklahoma Arts and Humanities Council also has big plans for the other half of the space.
Best New Development for 2009: The city broke ground last week on the new, 6,200-seat ballpark for the Tulsa Drillers. In the midst of construction, we hope developers flock to the surrounding area and begin their own projects. You can almost smell the hot dogs now.
Worst Thing that Could Happen in 2009: The Bank of Oklahoma goes under and needs a bailout. It won't happen, but if it does, Tulsa would be screwed, seriously screwed. And then we wouldn't get the aforementioned new ballpark.
Most Poignant Moment: The city gets a look at itself through the eyes of visitors. 1,500 delegates came to Tulsa for the National Preservation Conference. The experts on architecture, urban design, and the way cities are shaped by history commented on the city in similar ways. Their main question, "Why has so much of the city been destroyed and/or is being wasted?"
Best Sports Story of the Year: The Tulsa Oilers christened the BOK Center sports-style on October 25. Although the team lost, 16,000 fans came to cheer the boys on in their new home.
Worst Sports Story of the Year: Or is it the best? OU managed to embarrass itself at the Fiesta Bowl once again. West Virginia, behind an interim coach, racked up 48 points and 525 yards (349 on the ground), and it was another disappointing trip for OU to a BCS game.
Best Makeover: The Mayo Hotel. Although the project is still in the works, we always give a thumbs up to preservation and restoration efforts in downtown. Plus, the hotel will bring more residents and visitors downtown. Two thumbs up!
Best Thing that Hasn't Happened Yet: Light rail in T-Town. Last April, UTW readers read about a study by the Metro Tulsa Transit Authority that found a commuter train and a bus rapid transit system are both cost-effective options for eliminating about 20 percent of the rush hour traffic between Broken Arrow and downtown Tulsa. The project would cost between $43 million and $49 million to build, and about $3 million per year to operate, and would likely see a growth in passengers from 1.4 million in 2010 to 5 million in 2030, the study found. All board!
Best Letdown: The Tulsa 66ers moved to the SpiritBank Event Center in Bixby. Feel the spirit.
Best Example of Grassroots Organization: The opening of the Collaboratorium as proof of the Mayor's vested interest in promoting small business and aiding local entrepreneurs.
Worse Use of Downtown Property: The H.A. Chapman Centennial Green... you know, the downtown park without seating and that tiny little spout for a fountain. It's a job done, but a job well done? Now about those "Welcome to Tulsa" signs...
Person We Got Sick of: We are tempted to say George W. Bush, but we gotta keep with the local vibe here. So, we'll give this one to Randi Miller. Getting 19 percent of her own party's primary is a pretty strong indication of politician-induced nausea.
Cutest Couple: The Bank of Oklahoma and the city of Tulsa. Again, what would we do without it? Everything in town is branded with the bank's logo. Let's continue the canoodling and funny business as long as we can.
Got Tired of Hearing About: The Miller/Bjorklund/Expo Square accounting scandal. Thanks first to Sally Bell and then to Karen Keith, it's bye bye, Randi. Maybe the "Cutest Couple" award should go to Randi Miller and Terry Simonson... or Randi Miller and Rick Bjorklund... or Randi Miller and Loretta Murphy.
Best Party of the Summer: DFest. It graced this list as the best party last year, but hey, it is one hell of a party. Despite rumors of lower-than-expected attendance, we applaud its organizers and can verify that we had one hell of a time. The festival is great for Tulsa, and we look forward to 2009's event.
Worst Battle against Nature: Jim Inhofe's continued willful ignorance. Global warming is no hoax, sir. Go on a swim with a polar bear.
We Could Have Done Better: The new TU campus. So many people are divided down the line on whether or not the campus hit the nail on the head. Cookie-cutter apartments situated between giant parking lots with few trees on the grounds make the campus look like suburbia nestled smack dab in the middle of the city. But with the largest (or one of the largest) freshman class this year and the fact the football team did pretty well, the construction has to be a good thing, right?
Best Quote from a County Commissioner: "If there's financial issues with tenants, that's something that we the board are responsible for. The CEO does not have that responsibility because ultimately we have to answer to the citizens." County Commissioner and fair board member Randi Miller, responding to Big Splash's un-cashed rent checks. More from Miller: "I never had any conversations with Mr. Bjorklund or gave any direction related to taking any action related to Big Splash that would allow them any special arrangements."
Best Idea We've Heard in a Long Time: Finally, folks are on board to bring life back to Route 66. With a new landmark memorial being built near 11th and Peoria and news of the resurrection of the historic Meadow Gold sign, it seems Eleventh Street is beginning to rekindle its historic roots.
Best Surprise: Tulsa's favorite adopted son, David Cook, enjoyed a landslide victory on American Idol. Yes he can. Yes he did. In next week's issue, look for a review of Cook's new album.
Worst Surprise: Still thinking inside the same old red box, all 17 Oklahoma counties overwhelmingly voted Republican.
Best Move: City's move to One Tech Center. Now the concrete, desert-of-a-plaza between the courthouse, the main library and the old City Hall can be the site of the next dust bowl, since even fewer people now have a reason to be there.
Best New Law: SQ 743. Now our local wineries can self-distribute their juice, and the wholesalers are happy that the three-tier system is still intact. This isn't the last we'll hear from our grape growers, however.
Best UTW cover story of '08: "The Camel." An expose on Steve Kitchell. Highly informative, hard-hittin' journalism at its finest. Find it online at urbantulsa.com.
Project We Never Wanted and Now Wish It Would Hurry up and Be Finished: The I-44 widening. It's a field day for demolition companies, but do we really need to build more lane miles for automobiles as the economy slows and energy sources dry up? And if drivers passing through Tulsa are in such a hurry, why can't we route them along I-244 or the Creek Turnpike?
Little Piece of Tulsa We Miss Most: Perhaps nothing hurt worse this year for the local indie and jazz communities than the closing of The Continental. Yes, we know McNellie's added its new "sidebar" and the food and beer selection is great, but we'll all miss one of the coolest little nightclubs in town. Perhaps T-Town is not quite swanky enough for the jazz lounge that The Continental intended to be.
Worst Display of Stately Embarrassment: Anytime Oklahoma is linked to Sally Kern and her bigotry.
Best Foot Forward: Election year! Voter turnout reaches all-time highs!
Best/Worst Combo Act: This took some time, but the Bomasada Group's $30 million apartment project in Brookside is moving ahead. Sure, the old apartments were an eyesore in the area, but let's make sure we do this project right by not disrupting the character of the neighborhood.
Best Industry Making Waves: Tattoo parlors... everywhere. Get inked, Tulsa.
Worst Business Management: Anyone notice that Tsunami is no longer open for business? The Asian bistro located downtown at 2nd and Detroit shut its door very, very abruptly. What the hell? We were huge fans of the lunch special, weekend live music and its contributions to the downtown entertainment scene.
Most Tragic Encounter with Animal World: Safari Sanctuary worker, Peter Getz of Broken Arrow, died after entering the liger's cage. Also this year, a fire tore through Safari Joe's in Adair and claims the lives of 80 to 100 animals.
Biggest Disappointment: The BOK Center's lineup thus far. Sure, we like that shows are headed our way, but our socks haven't been rocked off yet. Really, we can't decide if the acts we've lined up so far are lackluster -- or exactly what the people want. The Eagles sold out fast, but was that because people wanted to be a part of the opening or because they think its 1976?
Best Thing for Tulsa's Education System: Tulsa Public Schools received a 12 million dollar federal grant to revitalize and reorganize its poorest schools, producing the new TPS Magnet program.
Best New Benefit: June's Tulsa Big Wheel Race. Inspired by a television commercial, a group of Tulsa friends hosted the event, which served as a benefit for Cancer Sucks, an organization that raises money for cancer research. We can't wait until we get another go-around this summer.
Best Bang for your Buck: The Tulsa World prices rise while UTW remains fantastically free.
Stalest City Council Discussion: The best way to repair our streets. We passed the Mayor's street plan, yet City Councilors in favor of the 12 year plan still haven't lost hope, arguing that we won't see results in five years anyway.
Best Act of Ask and You Shall Receive: This past September marked the opening of Tulsa's first dog park, Joe Station Bark Park, located at 2279 Charles Page Blvd. The park is a big step for pet owners and their pooches. Also something worth barking about is the recent announcement of a second dog park in South Tulsa. The Tulsa Bark Park Task Force worked for this one. Be proud!
Best/Worst Toss-Up: The Blue Dome Arts Festival and Mayfest going down the same weekend. Not sure if this was good or bad for either festival.
Best Comeback: The Rose Bowl Event Center, after being torched twice, has re-opened as a versatile multi-format convention center-type venue, with retro architecture intact.
Painted the Prettiest Picture: The Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition brings "Momentum Tulsa," an exhibit that invests in artists under the age of 30, to Living Arts Gallery and Liggett Studio, located at 308 & 314 S. Kenosha, respectively.
Best Pat on the Back: What other Tulsa concert venues are bringing in. Cain's and Brady have given us Beck, Aimee Mann, Kings of Leon, The Avett Brothers, Beck, Girl Talk, Jenny Lewis and so many other great artists that don't give two shits about arenas. We're also glad to have the First Street Music Hall, The Marquee, Soundpony and Flytrap Music Hall feeding Tulsa's music-loving frenzy.
Craziest City Dispute: City Hall's sign dispute. The City's master lease with Bank of Oklahoma said that we're not allowed to call it City Hall-- it's still One Technology Center-- and we're not allowed to put signage on the building without BOK's permission. Evidently it reduces the value of the available office space if potential tenants know there are city bureaucrats around, so we're all supposed to keep it quiet. Yeah, this one didn't last long.
Best New Free Service: The T-Town Trolley, which provides free transport to the citizens of Tulsa. The free-of-charge trolley rides became the bar crowds favorite mode of transportation for bar hopping between Tulsa's watering holes.
Biggest Frown: 2008 layoffs. DTAG, Tulsa World, SemGroup, KOTV Channel 6, the list keeps getting longer and longer.
Saddest Business Closure: The River's Edge. Although it was just a little knick-knack of a joint, the only Riverside restaurant shut its doors for good this year. This may seem counter-productive, but worry not, dear Tulsans. Word has it another restaurant will soon open doors to hungry river wanderers.
Worst Thing for Tulsa's Education System: The resignation of former TPS Superintendent Dr. Michael Zolkoski. We expected so much more.
Best Rumble in the Oklahoma Jungle: Catholic Charities breaks ground on its new, 80,000-square-foot campus at Apache Street and Harvard Avenue, making its services to the poor much more accessible and convenient.
Best Success Story: The Circle Cinema celebrates its 80th birthday! The landmark venue continues its successful run as Tulsa's lone art house movie theater and two more movie screens are on the way.
Best Display of Self-Promotion by a Local Cheerleader: Local artist Steve Cluck's (of Louis and Cluck) apparent bid to become Tulsa's Andy Warhol. This guy (a prolific screenprinter and creator of the "I Heart Tulsa" tee-shirts) is everywhere--always in suit and tie and surrounded by a bevy of art-school babes, no matter what the event. One thing we do know, this guy loves Tulsa, and we can applaud that.
Best Display of Hope: The John Hope Franklin Memorial Park groundbreaking. It's been a long time in coming, but finally, finally, Tulsa's public memorial to the victims of the 1921 Race Riot is underway.
Biggest Building Boom: Cherokees make haste on $125 million expansion of Cherokee Casino Resort in Catoosa. The casino will be the largest in Oklahoma once the expansion is complete and is estimated to create 500 new jobs. Meanwhile, over yonder on the river, River Spirit Casino is making waves of its own with its newest expansion project.
Best Birthday Celebration: The Tulsa Boys Home celebrates its 90th birthday. Since 1918, more than 11,000 have come through the Tulsa Boys' Home, now at 2727 S. 137th West Ave. in Sand Springs. Major changes, renovations and expansions are in the words, and we wish them continued success in the years to come.
Best Reason to Crack Open a Coldie: The opening of Marshall Brewing Company. How did we go so long without an historic brew house in town? Little Rock, Arkansas has more breweries than we do. Eric Marshall and his gang are making strides in recent months. Area liquor stores sell the Marshall kegs and now the 40-ounce bottles. We are waiting to hear about a delicious stout and coining it "The Urban Growler."
Biggest Scandal: The scandalous mess at 81st and Lewis. You know the details. The best PR campaign of the year was the one glorifying the lawsuit filed by dismissed Oral Roberts University professors and an administrator against the Roberts family and ORU administration, orchestrated by Gary Richardson of Richardson law firm. All information needed by the community, but in the style of a bad TMZ item. Today, a new guy walks the campus, picking up the pieces left by Mr. Richard Roberts. Word has it the school is getting back on track. Oh, the irony...
Predictions for 2009
Mayor Taylor will run a mile for every new employee she hires to her seemingly ever-expanding communications team. Get fit and talk pretty, Tulsa!
The Maharishi Ayurved University will buy One Tech Center, evicting City of Tulsa unless it agrees to help establish the meditation university intended for the former Camelot Hotel site.
More deco goes by the wayside. Our eyes are on the ballpark.
Tulsa can't get enough of the money-grubbing wasteland that is 71st Street. As the area continues to spew corporate America eastbound, we predict an implosion derived from our lousy economy. We can't say it enough: shop locally!
Tulsa passed both of the Mayor's street repair propositions. Yay! We will be so happy to finally have smooth streets, but odds are we'll bitch all year long as construction keeps us from quickly getting from Point A to Point B.
Or, maybe the City of Tulsa will give up on repairing the streets and instead turn to Paul Tay to assist in designing an entire city of bike paths and trails.
Let's start talking river development again!
Let's start talking river development again!
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