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Civil discord



Plans to renovate Oklahoma City’s Bicentennial Park, located between City Hall and the Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall, met resistance from the city’s Downtown Design Review Committee (DDRC), which declined to approve the plans at its meeting last week.

The tabling of the proposal Jan. 19 could push back awarding project bids for at least a month.

The Bicentennial Park renovation is part of Project 180, the $154 million downtown streetscape and green space improvements project.

The $3 million plan for the park includes “sweeping lines” of planted trees and vegetation, with a grand lawn in the center, as well as pavilions to the west and electronic signs to the east.

right, Eric Wenger

The proposal also calls for a “fountain stage” to serve as a water feature and performance stage, game tables and sculptures.

Turf war
Although the City Hall lawn was part of the original plan, which called for eliminating the fountain and pool east of City Hall, bids for it came over budget. As a result, that aspect of the proposal was moved to the list of tentative Project 180 projects, said city Public Works Director Eric Wenger.

However, city staff recommended the DDRC table approval of the park plans for a month because several elements — including possible future plans for the City Hall lawn — did not meet downtown development zoning requirements.

Points of contention included the size and number of electronic signs, demolition of the City Hall yard’s historic pool; and removal of the historical and memorial signs, plaques and statues in Bicentennial Park with no plans for what to do with them.

City staff also took issue with the aesthetic appropriateness of “alternate” plans that included spinning towers, pavilions and a large reflective arch.

“Several of the proposed elements distract from the prominence and significance of the historic structures, and are not consistent with the historic context,” the recommendation stated. “This assembly of multiple disconnected features neither preserves the historic [significance], nor allows for easy circulation and flexible utilization of the pedestrian spaces.”

Project 180 Program Manager Laura Story said she did not learn of the issues facing the plan until the Friday before the meeting.

Wenger said many of the features in the alternate plans were to be privately funded. He said staffers for Project 180 and the committee will resolve the issues before bringing the proposal back up for consideration.

Photo by Mark Hancock

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