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A Roadmap for the Future: City of Edmond Downtown Master Plan

The City of Edmond, Oklahoma, with its well-defined main street, already had big ideas about redeveloping historic downtown. The City and the Central Edmond Urban District Board (CEUDB) had developed and adopted two separate plans – in 1998 and 2011 – for revitalizing the urban core.

Despite the work accomplished in both plans in setting a vision for the City, Edmond was still struggling with precisely how to reach this vision. The City had implemented some streetscapes, but was not sure what to do next, and had more questions than answers. What were specific actions the City and its business community could take to move toward the vision? What projects were feasible from a funding perspective? Where should the City and private developers get started? Which projects should be immediate priorities and which are best reserved for later?

This was the context behind the Downtown Master Plan that the City commissioned Freese and Nichols to develop, and subsequently adopted in the summer of 2014. The lens through which the team viewed the project reflected both best practices in urban planning and local and national trends, but also market realities – land uses, infrastructure, existing buildings, encumbrances, etc.

Key to the success of this Downtown Master Plan was assimilating the planning work already completed in the two plans, incorporating the community’s ideas and addressing their concerns, and then marrying it to market data. The result was a clear, concise distillation of the 13 Big Issues the City faced in revitalizing its urban core, including:

1. Capitalizing on market potential and all demographics.

2.  Fostering a deeper relationship with the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO).

3. Housing choices for all stages of life.

4. Changes to revitalize underutilized places.

5. Addressing barriers to development.

6. Parking and parking culture.

7. Continuing to enhance downtown’s character and identity.

8. Need for consistent funding sources: private, public, maintenance.

9. Traffic and congestion.

10. Civic celebration and making the most of City holdings.

11. Setting the stage to capitalize on future access modes.

12. Expanding downtown’s walkability.

13. Knitting the urban fabric together.

Engagement

Engaging all of the various stakeholders was a critical part of the planning process; it was essential to get broad-scale input and buy-in. Key stakeholders included the Mayor and City Council; City staff; downtown land owners and real estate developers; real estate professionals; business owners; the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO); and members of the CEUDB, the Downtown Edmond Business Association (DEBA) and the Edmond Economic Development Authority (EEDA). The planning team made a point of meeting with stakeholders at public meetings, presentations, charrette, campus locations, and the local coffee shop, listening to their concerns and incorporating their feedback into the final plan.

Implementation

The plan was unanimously adopted by the Edmond City Council and the CEUDB, and provided a checklist of all action items broken down into four primary categories: regulation (what rules need to be updated or changed); economic/financing strategies; communication/marketing (how to tell the City’s story); and specific projects that can be accomplished through private investment or capital improvements. Several buildings are now under construction in downtown, with infill retail and a new brewhouse on tap for downtown, demonstrating that the momentum and excitement generated in the planning process have now carried into the implementation phase, which has received strong public support and interest.

Effectiveness

The Downtown Master Plan helped the City of Edmond move – very tactically – from dreaming of big things for downtown to actually implementing elements and starting new projects that will have a lasting impact on the visual look and feel and overall brand of the historic downtown. The end product was implementation-focused: taking the City’s vision and developing an actionable plan that identified specific, tangible elements and projects to foster creative, walkable outdoor space activated with retail.

Ongoing discussions with the City Council reflect a strong desire to continue to make progress, which is now very visible to the community. This stronger, more vibrant downtown will enhance the City’s reputation and contribute to the long-term financial health of the community. Furthermore, because the plan incorporates timeless principles of building design and placement, this plan has an extended shelf life that will allow the City to strategically and successfully develop this area both in the short-term and in decades to come.

To learn more about this plan or to discuss your planning project, contact Cody Richardson, RLA.

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TagsEdmond Downtown Master Plan, urban planning, implementation, walkability, urban space,

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