Out & About in Greater Tulsa By EMILY RAMSEY
GREAT RAFT RACE: Spectators cheered participants at the second annual Great Raft Race, held Sept. 5 on the Arkansas River.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
I spent a portion of my Labor Day morning walking the Arkansas River banks, basking in the breeze off the water, admiring the downtown views and enjoying the cheers of spectators and the cries of children with their families during the second annual Great Raft Race.
While it’s been noted before, it’s worth mentioning again that our river, which has sat unnoticed for far too long, is preparing for a rebirth or, maybe I should say, is in the midst of a rebirth.
The potential has always been there, but the meeting of potential and reality often takes decades of work and waiting.
The 2016 Great Raft Race, which took place on Sept. 5, saw 800 individual participants with 200 water vessels. The festival also featured a much-expanded after-party compared with last year at River West Festival Park, with water inflatables, food trucks and shade tents.
It makes sense that the rebirth of the river would follow the rebirth of downtown, the seeds of development which were planted years earlier with the construction of the Center and the re-opening of the Mayo Hotel.
The next river project probably most notably in people’s minds is A Gathering Place for Tulsa. Every time that I have a discussion with Jeff Stava about the Gathering Place or make a trip out to the park site to see its progress, I’m blown away by what is to come. I don’t think most Tulsans fully realize just what is in store.
Although, developers are definitely in the loop.
University Club and its neighbor, Mansion House, are in the midst of a multi-million-dollar renovation project to update their units. Property values are rising in the area. Construction is planned to begin in the coming months on the Cosmopolitan, a five-story, 260-unit luxury apartment complex, at the corner of Denver Avenue and Riverside Drive, with the first units to be available about 15 months after breaking ground, says John Gilbert, owner of development company Bomasada.
The first portion of the Margaritaville Casino and Restaurant $365 million expansion opened in August, with its convention center to follow. The 27-story hotel tower, including a luxury full-service spa, will open in December, The Paradise Cove theater and Ruth’s Chris Steak House in January 2017, and the Landshark Bar, resort pool deck, outdoor event space, and new River Parks Trail to open in spring 2017.
Further up Riverside Drive in Jenks, Simon Premium Outlets is expected to open in early 2018. Sitting between the outlet mall and the river is about 100 acres of land that Jenks Mayor Kelly Dunkerley expects to see much interest in as the outlet mall moves further along in development.
In addition, there’s the many new businesses looking to take up residence at Jenks’ RiverWalk Crossing, which could help it to attain the full potential that a quality property like that deserves.
Add to that the future construction of a new low-water dam at Zink Lake and in Jenks and the recent city approval of the Arkansas River Design Overlay and the days of our small but mighty river being overlooked are, thankfully, behind us.