POSTED ON AUGUST 7, 2013:
Polishing the Pearl
Community cleanup highlights urban fringe
Blake Ewing likes the view of downtown from E. 6th Street.
"There are very few better views in town," said Ewing, a city councilor and businessman.
He opened The Phoenix at the corner of E. 6th Street and S. Peoria Avenue in December, enjoying the idea of remodeling an older brick building.
"It's a much cooler place to be than if built new," Ewing said.
Now Ewing and The Phoenix are inviting others to celebrate the surrounding neighborhood, hosting an event on Saturday, Aug. 10, called Rise and Shine to clean up the area. While volunteers should wear work clothes, they and the public will be welcomed to cap the day with a street party and live music at the neighborhood's Centennial Park.
"If not our most beautiful park, it ranks up there with them," he said.
That area may be picturesque, but Ewing knows that the neighborhood as a whole could use some help.
Volunteers from his Blue Ox Dining Group will set out to do lots of outdoor maintenance, he said.
"We're going to focus on cleaning up the alleys. Obviously, we'll go door-to-door and meet the neighborhood," Ewing said.
Volunteers from Sanctuary church near Jenks will also be helping out, along with others from the Pearl neighborhood, though the effort could use more volunteers to show up early, he said. Lawn tools like trimmers could also help with the effort, Ewing said.
But Ewing encouraged everyone to come out for the event.
"Just come out and join us and have a good time. It is as much about fun and community-building as it is about cleaning things up," Ewing said.
The neighborhood has seen its share of development along the E. 6th Street corridor in recent months, even while a proposal to alter zoning for the roughly 70-block area proved to be a divisive issue for some. The Pearl District Association, a group of neighborhood businesspeople and residents, backed the plan, but others formed a different group in opposition.
This event is about the entire neighborhood, Ewing said.
"QuikTrip is even sponsoring and helping out," he noted. The convenience store chain built a new store on the southern edge of the neighborhood at E. 11th Street and S. Utica Avenue -- but not without controversy, as some people in the neighborhood wanted it built with a more pedestrian-friendly design.
Ewing voted against the plans, but the Tulsa City Council narrowly approved the project in May of last year.
As far as neighborhood disputes, "I think you'll see it much better. I think kind of the worst is behind us on all those neighborhood issues," Ewing said.
A mural is also planned as part of the project, Ewing said.
He said the neighborhood has the potential to be a real attraction.
"I just think it has a more unique aesthetic than the newer parts of town," Ewing said. The location, between the University of Tulsa and downtown, also adds to its appeal, he said.
"I think as Tulsa kind of grows and evolves as a city and that urban core kind of comes back to life, people are going to start looking at the neighborhoods that kind of flank downtown," he said.
That doesn't mean that the area needs high-rise apartments.
"I don't hope for -- I know a lot of people don't -- this kind of full-scale gentrification for the neighborhood," Ewing said.
He emphasized that the event won't be the only such effort in the neighborhood.
"This has kind of been several months in the making, but it's the first of hopefully many initiatives," Ewing said.
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