Pearl District Grows Amid Zoning Controversy

Managing Editor

DISTRICT HOPES: A walkable, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood, as pictured above, is the vision of the Pearl District Association, possibly even with a canal running down 6th Street. This vision hinges on a change to a form-based code, which has been met with much opposition from the Pearl District Business and Property Owners Association.


Residents and business owners in the Pearl District have already started work on some big plans for its neighborhood; however, members of the Pearl District Association believe that those plans hinge on a change in land-use codes—a desire that puts them at odds with others in the neighborhood.

The district association’s plans began in May 2000 when the city’s planning department created the 6th Street Task Force, made up of area businesses, residents and institutions who created a vision for the neighborhood. The district encompasses the area between I-244 and 11th street and Utica Avenue and Highway 75, or the .

The vision took one year to complete and was adopted by the Tulsa City Council in 2006. While writing the plan, the group saw that in order to create its vision of a walkable neighborhood, the current suburban-style zoning needed to change to an urban-style code, one example of this being a form-based code.

A form-based code focuses on designating the character of the development without defining the types of businesses permitted. Buildings must be built close to the front of the property line, and mixed-use buildings are allowed.

Conventional zoning creates separate areas for commercial and residential buildings and encourages a higher amount of driving. It also requires that buildings sit back from the street and that each business provides a designated amount of parking spaces. “This costs businesses time, money and patience to come together possibly with other businesses to find a parking area that they can utilize,” says Theron Warlick, planner for the city of Tulsa’s planning and economic development department. “Rules like these are hindering growth.”

Currently, the form-based code only applies to the area between Highway 75, 6th Street, Peoria Avenue and 11th Street, and in March, the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (TMAPC) denied requests to expand form-based code to the entire district.

This decision was much desired to many property owners in the district. Many of those individuals are a part of the Pearl District Business and Property Owners Association. These businesses include American Legion, Hillcrest, Indian Health Care Resource Center, Johnson Body Shop, Pediatric Dental Group, Southern Sheet Metal Works Inc and others.

Some of these corporations claim that the code will conflict with the needs of their industrial businesses, many of which involve large trucks. Other owners have cited their concern of conforming to form-based code when they want to expand their business in the future.

They also argue that neighborhood growth can still occur without such a rigid set of codes and guidelines of development.

And, despite code changes, the area is in fact growing.

In 2001, the Village At Central Park, a walkable neighborhood at 8th and Peoria, came to the district. Family & Children’s Services moved into a new building. The Fire Alarm Building and (Veterans of Foreign Wars) building were restored. Central Park was refurbished with a water detention pond and community center. In 2007, the Pearl Farmers Market opened in Central Park, and in 2011, the Shakespeare Festival came to the park. Other new businesses in the district include a theatre, recording studio, art bar, restaurant and artist studios and galleries.

Central Park was created as an answer to the district’s flooding problem. The detention pond in Central Park was the first of three phases in the district’s plan to control the flood area. The pond was built deep to detain flood water, and a park was built surrounding it. The next phases include a pond north of Central Park and one south of 6th street.

There are even hopes of eventually creating a canal that runs down 6th Street and bringing mass transit to the area.

Future talks are being planned to try to bring about a resolution to the zoning disagreements.

Updated 03-25-2013

Back to Top


email (we never post emails)
  Textile Help

Back to Top

Contact GTR News