Bold Development Proposal for River Unveiled

INNOVATION: An artist rendering shows the latest plan for developing Tulsa’s Arkansas River. “The Channels??? would be a 40-acre, man-made island located between the 11th and 23rd Street Bridges, featuring residential and commercial developments.

Courtesy Rex Public Relations

A bold vision for development of the Arkansas River designed to propel the Tulsa region past its competitors was announced on Sept. 6 by six citizens, who also urged residents to get involved in making the project a reality.

The project launched over a kitchen table in the spring of 2005 when John-Kelly Warren, chairman of the William K. Warren Foundation, his wife, Margie, Tom Cooper, CEO of Warren Professional Building Corporation, Christine and Scott Lambert, owners of Travertine Elevator Interiors, and local business attorney Rusty Patton decided to identify the root causes of what some people call Tulsa’s decline. After considerable study, the six determined Tulsa County fell short in three areas: the ability to attract and retain talented employees and the employers of that talent; a strong sense of community; and a sustainable tax base.

They then decided to do something about it.
The non-profit group, now called Tulsa Stakeholders Inc., commissioned world-famous urban planner/architect and waterfront expert Bing Thom to develop a plan for a project that would transform the future of the Tulsa region.

Citing the need for a central gathering place that anchors and catalyzes the county’s quality of life, the resulting project, known as “The Channels,” begins with an impounding dam at the 23rd Street Bridge that creates a 12.3-mile lake north to Sand Springs. A 40-acre, man-made island located between the 11th and 23rd street bridges, itself connected by two bridges to the east bank, rises up from the water and anchors the project. The man-made land mass features low-and high-rise residences to the north and south, separated by navigable canals from the public zone.

At the heart of the island is the community focal point, a stone-paved plaza that is the largest open space on the development. Facing the east river bank and channel, as well as a floating stage for performance arts, the plaza is lined in trees with plans calling for cafés and pubs to “spill out into the space.” Much of the parking is subterranean.

Focal to the project is a several-story high framework canopy that shades the plaza.

Covered in solar panels, the canopy is designed to collect sunshine for power conversion, while also serving to cool by up to 13 degrees the open market and other public spaces underneath it.

Opposite of the plaza on the east bank is a large park, “Tulsa Green,” with stairs cascading down to the water’s edge across the full width of the bank. Renderings depict a beach and large pool located to the south. Visions for the west bank include a marina for boaters.

Estimated to require $600 million in some form of public financing, the group committed to raise $100 million as a gift from the private sector to the Tulsa region. Through the sale of energy created by the project’s hydrodam and other renewable energies, an additional $88 million dollars can be financed, for a total of $788 million.

Among the many benefits generated by “The Channels” is an overarching program of environmental sustainability, which was developed in concert with one of the world’s largest engineering firms, Ove Arup & Partners. Plans call for the project to generate excess energy from hydro, solar and wind power that can be sold back to the power grid for profit.

During its presentation, the group encouraged discussions with community leaders and citizens of Tulsa County to determine a plan for moving forward.

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Updated 09-18-2006

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