Many city officials and others who support the revitalization of downtown Tulsa have spent the past couple of years talking about the need to attract more residents to the district in hopes of making it a real neighborhood, as opposed to a concentration of office buildings.
But up to this point, they haven't had any evidence that large numbers of people actually want to live downtown.
That situation is expected to change soon with the completion of a new downtown housing survey that was begun two weeks ago under the auspices of the Tulsa Economic Development Commission. The final report on the survey is due in early 2010 and will include a detailed analysis of demand and recommendations of housing type, size, sale price or rent targets, and target tenant/buyer profiles.
Bruce Bolzle, the commission chairman, said the survey is intended to accelerate the development of residential housing downtown, primarily lofts and townhouses within the central business district and all areas abutting it that are within walking distance of downtown attractions.
"Our goal is to provide a resource for developers who are in the process of or are considering the creation of mixed-use or housing developments," he said. "We also want to provide a resource for the city administration, the City Council, the (Tulsa) Development Authority and others to understand exactly what the demand is. It will also be a resource for lending institutions to encourage those institutions to lend money for housing, to show them what we believe will be significant demand for housing downtown."
Recognizing the worth of that information, Bolzle's group decided to commission the survey at its fall 2008 retreat.
"We're trying to complete something that has not been done before to this detail and extent," he said. Most previous surveys, he said, are several years old or were done by developers for the benefit of specific projects and failed to address the potential of downtown as a whole. He said commission members also believed there was no project they could undertake that would have as big an impact as the survey.
The survey itself, which can be taken online at HYPERLINK "http://www.cdsmr.com/surveymaps/tulsasurvey.html"www.cdsmr.com/surveymaps/tulsasurvey.html, consists of more than 50 questions. The survey first establishes the demographics of the respondent, then goes on to gauge the respondent's interest in living downtown and in particular types of housing, as well as their price. The survey also seeks to determine what kind of attractions--educational opportunities, proximity to work, nightlife, dining, retail, etc.--respondents are looking for downtown.
The survey is being conducted by CDS Market Research/Spillette Consulting, a Houston--based firm that has conducted similar studies for Austin, Houston and Oklahoma City, among other cities. The cost of the survey is approximately $40,000.
Bolzle said more than 200 people already had responded to the survey by Nov. 9, most of whom were alerted to its presence by Twitter.
"My hope is that we could get a couple of thousand or so responses," he said. "I'd love to see that."
Bolzle said many of the same groups that contributed input to the PLANiTULSA survey are being tapped to participate in this survey, as well--TulsaNow, the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture and Tulsa's Young Professionals, among others.
Additionally, the survey is being sent to all the current downtown residents for whom e-mail addresses could be found, Bolzle said.
"We'd like to hear from those who already have made the decision to live downtown," he said. "We'd like to know why."
Bolzle said he would not hazard a guess as to what the survey will show, aside from the fact he expects it will reveal there is significant demand for downtown housing.
"I would hope we would see new residents over time in the low thousands," he said. "We already have multiple housing units downtown in various forms. We would like to see those numbers dramatically increase. Other cities our size have had significant numbers of new residents downtown when the product was made available to them."
The deadline for completing the survey is Monday, Nov. 23.
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