Tulsa vs. OKC: Tulsans Have Many Reasons to be Proud

Out & About in Greater Tulsa by EMILY RAMSEY
Managing Editor

DOWNTOWN SIGHTS: The Bleu Garten food truck court is located in Oklahoma City’s Midtown District. It is fenced in with permanent restrooms and a bar, seating areas, and televisions, with food trucks lining one corner of the property. Pictured at left is a southern view of Oklahoma City’s skyline from a Midtown hotel.

EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers

There is something about our city’s creative energy and sense of community that is palpable and makes me proud to be a Tulsan.

Tulsa Fashion Week, which just finished its inaugural event, is one recent example (see page 31). The growth of Tulsa’s creative communities is inspiring to watch.

Granted, I’m a born and raised Tulsan, so, not only will I defend this city till the day I die, but I will also always see this city through the eyes of one who is willing it to succeed.

Sure, I see the failures, the molasses-like speed it sometimes takes to progress. I feel the irritation when I can’t buy high-point beer at a grocery store. And I feel the sadness every time I look at our dried up Arkansas River that many cities would have bent over backwards to fill up decades ago, receiving no arguments from anyone.

But, I also recognize the ways we are thriving, arguably, in spite of the aforementioned things.

And it’s clear that we’re moving in the right direction.

Josh Driskell, president of the Jenks Chamber of Commerce, commented recently regarding the future of Jenks, saying, “This next year is going to be exciting; the next five years are going to be incredible.”

I feel that sentiment also mirrors the outlook for Tulsa.

However, when we talk of Tulsa’s future and direly-needed projects, such as public transportation improvements, the conversation often turns toward Oklahoma City.
Learning about Oklahoma City’s (Metro-politan Area Projects) program, one can’t help but admire the city. And quite possibly feel a bit envious of its ability to get things accomplished.

Yes, Oklahoma City has a much-developed downtown thanks, in part, to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Bricktown. And there’s a good chance that they’ll remain a bit ahead of us in the future. (Their current phase –  3 – includes a public transportation rail line.)

As I considered these accomplishments, I made a plan to visit and see for myself how much Oklahoma City has, in fact, accomplished.

I booked my hotel in the Midtown District, which turned out to be my favorite district of the ones I visited. Midtown is still very much in the genesis of its growth, but the development that is already there looks promising. Our very own Eliot Nelson already has a presence there, with McNellie’s Public House, Fassler Hall and Dust Bowl Lanes and Lounge all situated within the district. Midtown also features a handful of shops, including a men’s clothing shop and a boutique, that all recently opened in the spring.

Toward the south end of the district sits a dog park and a food truck court, the Bleu Garten, it being one of the most attractive developments in the district. The Bleu Garten is fenced in with permanent restrooms and a bar, seating areas, and televisions, with food trucks lining one corner of the property, making the trucks feel more like a comfortable addition as opposed to the court’s focal point. The focal point, instead, being that of a gathering spot instead of serving solely as a destination place for a meal.

A mixed-use housing project that is still under construction sits at the north end of Midtown near the district’s restaurants, giving that part of Midtown a very walkable feel.

East of Midtown is Automobile Alley, lying along Broadway Avenue, the district named for its history as a home to many automobile dealerships and service companies. The area today holds a smattering of shops and restaurants, but my preferred area sat to the east of Broadway: an off-the-beaten-path area of old homes sitting among the trees. The homes have been turned into local shops and restaurants.

This was an area that I wished continued on a little farther – a similar feeling I get when I’m on Cherry Street: its development one that I wish extended further east.
Deep Deuce is a downtown district within walking distance of Bricktown, just to its east. This area is mainly made up of residential projects, with a couple restaurants scattered throughout.

Later, I ventured into the Plaza District, a couple miles north of downtown. It’s about the size of Brookside, with a nice balance of shops and restaurants, something Tulsa’s districts need to work on. Although the feel here is more like Blue Dome, as opposed to Brookside.

There are many local bars and restaurants, including an old-time soda shop, and many boutiques, some quirky, others more upscale, but all of them focused on providing locally-themed and locally-made items.

Another area, the Paseo Arts District, north of the Plaza, is a quaint district with colorful buildings that is home to many art galleries and a few shops and restaurants.

Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to venture much outside of the downtown circumference. Next time, I want to make sure to hit the Oklahoma Zoo, Lake Hefner and, of course, a Thunder game.

So, the conclusion I’ve drawn from my trip?

That Tulsans should hold our heads up high because, like Oklahoma City, Tulsa holds its own set of strengths.

I, for one, can’t wait to watch what both cities do next.

Updated 09-28-2015

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