The MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board and subcommittees are fleshing out some of the $777 million program's individual projects.
Almost one year after the passage of the MAPS 3 proposal, the first physical manifestations of some of the plan's more visible components may be in sight.
The contract for the first demolition in the program " the destruction of the old post office to make way for a downtown central park " was approved by the MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board on Nov. 18, and the City Council should vote on the contract at an upcoming meeting.
Situated next to the historic Union Station, the former federal post office, located at 320 S.W. Fifth St., will likely be rubble within weeks as the city prepares the land for the park.
"This will be our first demolition project," said MAPS Program Manager Eric Wenger. "There will be several more to come."
Meanwhile, members of three MAPS 3 oversight subcommittees got an overview of the status of the $777 million program's projects, as well as a view of the long road ahead of bringing the plans to fruition.
The MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board's downtown park, modern streetcar and senior wellness center subcommittees met for the first time Nov. 17, where members were briefed by city officials on complying with Open Meeting and Open Records acts, conflicts of interest and their mission as a board.
Combined, the three subcommittees will oversee approximately $310 million in spending on a downtown streetcar system, a park in southern downtown and four to five senior wellness centers around the city.
A fourth MAPS 3 subcommittee " the convention center subcommittee " previously met on Oct. 20; other subcommittees, such as the State Fairgrounds and river subcommittees, will meet in December.
The subcommittees are responsible for sending recommendations on their respective projects to the MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board, which in turn sends its recommendations to City Council.
Neither the subcommittees' nor the advisory boards' recommendations are binding, and require City Council approval before implementation.
Each subcommittee is chaired and vice-chaired by Citizens Advisory Board members.
While each subcommittee will hire its own consultants, the Citizens Advisory Board approved a draft contract with Oklahoma City-based Architectural Design Group on Nov. 18 to hire the company as a consultant. The contract will be voted on by City Council at a future meeting.
If the final contract is approved by the Council, ADG will be responsible for program administration (such as creating a program schedule and budget examination), community outreach, determining project requirements and other additional services.
The $1.2 million draft contract with ADG is for one year, to be renewed yearly for 10 years. Through the life of MAPS 3, the total cost to the city will be around $20 million, Wenger said.
The transit subcommittee will be examining possible routes for a streetcar line, as well as what type of streetcar will run on the line, a hub site and how the line will ultimately play into a planned regional mass transit system.
The subcommittee will have about $130 million to work with, but putting in such a rail line can be expensive, possibly costing an average of $20 million per mile of track, said subcommittee member Jeff Bezdek, an advocate for the streetcar during the MAPS 3 campaign.
The significant cost issue, Bezdek and others at the meeting said, would be relocating utilities around and under the streets for the rail line.
Project 180, a major facelift for downtown that includes repaving, must also be taken into account when planning the streetcar routes, Bezdek said.
Planned routes, coordinated with Project 180, should be completed by spring, Wenger said.
Wenger said City Council has commissioned a study to determine the best hub location, and that a report should be available by this spring.
Whatever the final route, method of powering the streetcar and hub location, it is critical that the streetcar be a success in order for a future regional mass transit system to succeed, subcommittee member Jane Jenkins said.
"This has to be a homerun, or a regional system will never go anywhere," Jenkins said. "We have to look at what we're connecting from the very beginning. It has to move people around places they want to go in ways that are convenient."
Senior wellness centers
While other projects came with a natural rough concept of what they should be, capturing the essence of the MAPS senior health and wellness centers was more elusive, Wenger told the project's subcommittee.
Planners drew a blank while writing literature promoting the wellness center projects proposed in MAPS 3, Wenger said.
"When it came to the senior health and wellness center, we weren't able to put anything into the book," Wenger said. "There isn't one in Oklahoma City. There's not a very good model to follow, at least locally."
Wenger said the senior center subcommittee discussed potential locations, how to find partners to operate the senior centers and how to best meet seniors' needs. The subcommittee will ultimately hire a consultant to help develop requirements.
The MAPS program dedicates $50 million to the centers.
MAPS 3 park
Although the first major action for the park " review of a contract for the post office demolition " was undertaken, the parks subcommittee still has a long way to go in seeing the project through.
The budget for the park sits at $130 million, and the park itself will be divided into a 40-acre northern section and a 30-acre section south of the relocated Interstate 40.
Wenger said the city hopes to have all of the land required for the northern section by summer, and have that section of the park open by 2012. Work on the southern section will not begin until 2014, he said.
Most of the 29 property owners in the northern section have been notified of the city's intent to purchase the land, and thus far the city owns three of the parcels, which include the post office and Union Station. Wenger said the city is expediting the purchase of five properties in the southeast portion of the north park that are needed for the SkyDance Bridge landing.
"There's probably been more done on the park than any of the other projects," Wenger said.
All of the subcommittees will likely consider lists of outside consultants to hire as early as January, Wenger said.
On the parks subcommittee are business owners, architects and a few local celebrities, including former Hornets and Thunder basketball player Desmond Mason and Michelle Martin-Coyne, wife of Flaming Lips front man Wayne Coyne.
MAPS ADVISORY BOARD AND SUBCOMMITTEE MEMBERS
MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board
"Tom McDaniel, chair
"Rusty LaForge, vice chair
MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board Downtown Park Subcommittee
"Kimberly Lowe, chair
"Michael Dover, vice chair
MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board Modern Streetcar Subcommittee
"Nathaniel Harding, chair
"Zane Boatright, vice chair
MAPS 3 Senior Health and Wellness Centers Subcommittee
"Michael Dover, chair
"Wayne Williams, vice chair
Photo: The former federal post office at 320 S.W. Fifth
Photo Credit: Mark Hancock