Tulsa’s Kendall Whittier Sees Growth
By EMILY RAMSEY
ART INSTALLATION: On July 16, community volunteers installed a new public art piece in the Kendall Whittier neighborhood as a way to fill the Whittier Square flower beds until they are planted in the fall with rose bushes.
Kendall Whittier has been undergoing a rebirth over the past five years.
At the beginning of 2013, the district had 15 of its 43 available storefronts occupied—a rate of 35 percent. By the end of this year, Ed Sharrer, director of Kendall Whittier Main Street, expects the district to reach 95 percent occupancy.
“When I started with Kendall Whittier, we quickly realized that we needed some transformational strategies,” Sharrer says.
“We looked at what was already established in the area: Ziegler Art & Frame, Circle Cinema, Tulsa Girls Art School, Fab Lab, plus the affordable housing, and we determined that we had the potential for a future as a creative district.”
As Sharrer and area stakeholders have moved forward with that vision, the neighborhood’s demographic of working artists has grown, leading to increased interest from other businesses.
Recently, the block along Lewis Avenue, south of Circle Cinema, including the Swinney Hardware building, reached full occupancy.
In May, Growing Together moved its offices into the space at 16 S. Lewis Ave. Other businesses that have moved onto the block include HP Engineering, Orth Contemporary art gallery, Tanninger Companies and Studios.
Two tenants slated to open next are Heirloom Rustic Ales, which will open an 1,800-square-foot taproom along Admiral Boulevard in October, and Reauxs, a French soul food restaurant to open early next year.
With the entrance of Heirloom Rustic Ales plus the nearby Marshall Brewing Company, 618 S. Wheeling, and the soon-to-open Cabin Boys Brewery, 1717 E. 7th St., and Renaissance Brewing Company, 1147 S. Lewis Ave., “we are definitely looking at ways of offering some beer crawls in the future,” says Sharrer.
Reauxs is the creation of Tiffanie Dartez-Reynolds, who previously owned the Stella Reauxs food truck.
Adding further to the artist vibe of the area is the inaugural Kendall Whittier Mercado, which began in April and runs through September, taking place at the corner of Lewis Avenue and Admiral Boulevard on Saturday mornings. The market is based on the famous Mercado de Coyoacán, an arts market in Mexico City, “where the focus is on handmade goods, and artists are literally in their tents making their items,” says Sharrer.
In an effort to nurture local artists, including those in the Hispanic community, the Kendall Whittier Mercado was born.
“We wanted to be a part of helping to nurturing these artists and finding ones who have the potential for eventually morphing into having their own brick-and-mortar stores,” he says.
Additionally, Sharrer believes the mercado fills a previously-missing element in offerings around town, providing a venue for makers, in addition to the Tulsa Farmers’ Market and area flea markets.