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From the ground up



While the intersection provides picturesque views of the construction of the Devon Energy tower — reaching 40 floors high, and counting — along with the accompanying buildings and auditorium, it is easy to miss what’s going on at ground level. In the shadow of the growing Devon Energy Center tower is the Myriad Botanical Gardens. But this isn’t the gardens of old.

While up until last year the layout of the Myriad Botanical Gardens remained largely unchanged from when it opened in 1988, a $38 million renovation is currently under way. The work includes re-glazing the panels on the iconic Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory and reshaping the outdoor grounds to open up the gardens as a public space to relax, walk a dog, see a performance or grab a bite to eat. In one corner of the garden, a lumpy hillside was leveled into a great lawn that can hold 2,500 people fronted by a covered, lighted stage.

Rather than oddly placed entry points, the 17-acre gardens are accessible from four corners and the four streets that border the park. All sides have wide open entry points and decorative pavers that lead to paths that snake throughout the gardens.

above Laura Story, program manager for Project 180, leads a group on a tour of renovations in progress.

We’re a little bit stressed, but we’re confident everything is going to be great.

—Angela Cozby

“There are eight distinct invitations into the Myriad Gardens,” said Laura Story, Project 180 program manager. “That’s a lot different from how it used to be.”

Steep hills that led to the pond that surrounds the Crystal Bridge have been landscaped to include large steps for seating or as a way down to the water. An ice-skating rink and restaurant are set for completion later this year.

The gardens closed April 26, 2010, for a yearlong renovation that was set for completion in time for the Festival of the Arts, which runs from Tuesday through May 1. The re-glazing of the Crystal Bridge and a new south entryway to it were funded by a 2007 General Obligation Bond approved by Oklahoma City voters.

180 renovations are funded through a tax increment financing district
set up from construction and appraisal of the $750 million Devon Energy

While the
gardens are meant to be an amenity for people to enjoy, it is an
essential piece of the Festival of the Arts. Last week, festival staff
got their first look at the gardens in a guided tour by Story as workmen
busied themselves in every area of the gardens.

a little bit stressed, but we’re confident everything is going to be
great in the Myriad Gardens,” said Angela Cozby, director of the

The festival
will make use of the water stage, the lawn and band shell, as well as
areas for outdoor sculpture displays and a newly constructed pavilion
for a youth art sale. The festival staff’s main concerns were the
gateway into the park from the west side. They want to ensure the
festival blends seamlessly from the artists’ tents and into the gardens.

the construction walls erected along Hudson Avenue coming down, Cozby
said the festival setup is on schedule. Last week, tents were being
constructed in the food court, and artists’ tents along Hudson began
going up today. It is consistent with their setup schedule in previous

“We’re right on schedule,” she said.

officials have addressed festival parking concerns in light of Project
180 construction of surrounding streets. Jim Couch, city manager,
assured Oklahoma City Council members at the April 12 meeting that
effort has been made to take the stress out of parking for the festival.

city created a website,, to provide a list of parking
options. On April 30 and May 1, the Devon parking garage along Hudson
will be available for public use. The fee is $5, and proceeds will go to
the Arts Council of Oklahoma City.

Story said she can’t wait for the public to see the new and improved gardens when they debut in time for the festival.

“I think people will be very pleasantly surprised,” she said.

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