PLANiTULSA Continues Gathering Community Ideas

Associate Editor

BUSY AT WORK: Tulsans gathered in the bottom of the bowl of the BOK Center arena in September to offer their input into the creation of a comprehensive plan for how best to create the Tulsa of the future.


Tulsans are invited to speculate how best to accommodate the future growth of the city, estimated at an additional 120,000 residents in the next 40 years. At first glance, planning on this scale is daunting. That’s where John Fregonese, lead consultant of Fregonese Associates, Inc., a land-use planning firm from Portland, Ore. comes in.

The City of Tulsa hired Fregonese to update Tulsa’s comprehensive development plan and he’s been busy conducting meetings and surveys around the city as promised to get citizen input on what kind of future they see for their city. At each gathering Fregonese gives a detailed overview of the future challenges and opportunities facing the Tulsa metro area and how these matters might impact lifestyles, quality of life and economic development. PLANiTULSA, as the process has been branded, will take 18 months to two years divided into nine stages starting with the current information gathering stage. This will be followed by forecasting and modeling land use, transportation and economic connection, scenario development, development of the comprehensive plan, implementation plan and funding strategies along with other stages leading to adoption of the plan.

In the first phase of the information gathering stage, which is now underway, citizens are invited to participate in hands-on, three-hour workshops to actually create a comprehensive plan based on information provided by the overseers of the planning. The first such session came on the evening of Sept. 21 at the Greenwood Cultural Center and a second session was held at the BOK Center the next day. Registration and attendance at both events exceeded the 500-person limit, so a third workshop is scheduled for Oct. 28 at the Greenwood Cultural Center.

Each event had 50 tables with seating for 10 per table. Covering the tables were large detailed map of the city on which citizens were invited to speculate as how best to accommodate the future growth of the city. As a starting place, participants were given four fundamental development strategies to consider before getting into the details of their planning.

One strategy centered on how best to retain young people and a skilled labor force that meets the anticipated demands of future economic development. A second strategy focused on economic development as the guiding force for future development. A third strategy, described as neighborhood /entrepreneurial empowerment, emphasized economic development built around small startup neighborhood enterprises and home based work scenarios creating economically viable, mixed residential and commercial clusters or nodes. The fourth strategy supported the current approach to continue creating outlying suburbs served by commercial clusters of shopping malls and commercial centers accessible by thoroughfares and expressways.

A designated facilitator coaxed participants to express their priorities and preferences. But not much coaxing was necessary as most showed up armed with ideas and aspirations they were more than willing to share. A group of ten, for the most part, strangers collaborated, cajoled and conspired to reach a consensus. Once agreement was reached on which of the four strategies to employ the rest became a question of how to implement a plan that addressed what the chosen strategy would require.

At one table the retaining of young people strategy was chosen. What followed from that decision was a survey of research provided by Fregonese Associates, Inc. that provided insight into what young people want in terms of lifestyle, dwelling, entertainment, recreation, education and transportation options. The overriding question for the team was what are the next generations looking for in a city and what can be created to bring them here and keep them here.

Nearing the end of the workshop teams were invited to present their maps to the gathering. Although it is too early in the process to draw conclusions, a number of trends could be observed from the team presentations. There was near consensus favoring a more concerted effort to support much needed economic development in long neglected parts of the city. This sentiment was driven by the notion that greater Tulsa in total would benefit from efforts to develop specific areas of the city.

The interest in focusing on undeveloped portions of the city shown in the workshops and in surveys provides an encouraging counterpoint to the conventional wisdom portraying the city as segmented and at odds with itself. Not only is a consensus emerging for more balanced and inclusive economic growth, but also for preserving the city’s many unique amenities such as historic buildings and neighborhoods, for repairing streets and infrastructure and, it was repeatedly suggested by those giving summaries of their table’s plan, that mass and commuter transit of some type was needed to connect different commercial nodes around the city to reduce traffic and pollution.

“The Tulsa community has come forth in a big way to make their ideas about future development and economic growth for the city known,” says Mayor Taylor who has been on hand at the workshops. “We’ve challenged everyone to think big, think bold and that is what we are getting – big, bold, great ideas.”

The information that is gathered at the workshops along with research polls and other sources will become the armature around what will become the city’s plan for growth. It will serve to guide subsequent city administrations regarding zoning, ordinances, tax incentives for development and where best to invest in infrastructure. It will serve as the city’s map to the future.

The process of gathering input continues to gain momentum in the greater Tulsa area as more citizens show up to provide insights as to what kind of city it will become in the years ahead. As for Fregonese Associates and the City of Tulsa Planning Department, there is a lot to digest before moving on to the next stage of the comprehensive plan. For more information, visit

Updated 11-06-2008

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