Moving Forward: Oklahoma City

December 15, 2009 58 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

It may be a recession but the nation's economic conditions have not stopped several of Jacksonville's peer cities from dreaming big and taking action to achieve those dreams. Today, Metro Jacksonville takes a look at how Oklahoma City stacks up to Jacksonville, the MAPS3 initiative, and its impact on this capitol city.

Tale of the Tape:

Oklahoma City Population 2008: 551,789 (City); 1,206,142 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1889)

Jacksonville Pop. 2008: 807,815 (City); 1,313,228 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Oklahoma City (243,504)

City Land Area

Oklahoma City: 607.0 square miles
Jacksonville: 757.7 square miles

Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2000-2008)

Oklahoma City: +10.11%
Jacksonville: +16.97%

Urban Area Population (2000 census)

Oklahoma City: 747,003 (ranked 49 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 882,295 (ranked 43 nationwide)

Urban Area Population Density (2000 census)

Oklahoma City: 2,317.4
Jacksonville: 2,149.2

City Population Growth from 2000 to 2008

Oklahoma City: +45,657
Jacksonville: +72,312

Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Oklahoma City: Cox Business Services Convention Center (1970) - 100,000 square feet
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1985) - 78,500 square feet

Connected to or across the street from Convention Center:

Oklahoma City: Renaissance (311 rooms), Sheraton Hotels (395 rooms), Courtyard by Marriott (225 rooms), Colcord Hotel (108 rooms)
Jacksonville: N/A

Tallest Building:

Oklahoma City: Chase Tower - 500 feet; Devon World Headquarters - 900 feet (currently under construction-shown above)
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet

Fortune 500 companies 2009 (City limits only):

Oklahoma City: Devon Energy (163), Chesapeake Energy (230)
Jacksonville: CSX (240), Winn-Dixie (340)

Urban infill obstacles:

Oklahoma City: Urban renewal and building fabric demolition has hurt downtown's connectivity with urban core neighborhoods.
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off Downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.

Downtown Nightlife:

Oklahoma City: Bricktown
Jacksonville: East Bay Street

Common Downtown Albatross:

Both cities have a large number of surface parking lots.

Who's Downtown is more walkable?

Oklahoma City: 97 out of 100, according to (Downtown Oklahoma City as keyword)
Jacksonville: 88 out of 100, according to

Visual Information

Green = Jacksonville's city limits (current urban core) before consolidation in 1968
Red = Jacksonville's current consolidated city-county limits

Jacksonville's current and original city limit boundaries over Oklahoma City's land area.


About Oklahoma City's original MAPS Initiative

Oklahoma City's MAPS Initiatives are very similar to Jacksonville's Better Jacksonville Plan (BJP). Approved by voters in 2001, the BJP is a $2.25 billion comprehensive growth management program that provides road and infrastructure improvements, environmental preservation, targeted economic development and new and improved public facilities, funded in part by a half-cent sales tax.

A major difference in these two initiatives is MAPS projects tend to relate to one another to reach a larger long term vision while BJP projects were broader in scope and lacked connectivity with one another.

August 17, 2004 was an historic day in the City's history.  It brought the dedication of the Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library and the completion of the MAPS (Metropolitan Area Projects) program that began on December 14, 1993, when voters approved the MAPS sales tax.  It is believed Oklahoma City is the first city in the country to undertake a public facility enhancement project of this size.

The Projects:

The Ford Center

The AT&T Bricktown Ballpark

The Bricktown Canal

State Fairgrounds Improvements

The Oklahoma River

The Oklahoma Spirit Trolleys

Renovation of the Myriad into the Cox Business Services Convention Center

Renovation of the Civic Center Music Hall

The Norick Downtown Library

How We Did It

MAPS was funded by a temporary one-cent sales tax approved by city voters in December 1993, and later extended an additional six months.

The tax expired on July 1, 1999. During the 66 months it was in effect, over $309 million was collected. In addition, the deposited tax revenue earned about $54 million in interest. That was used for MAPS construction, too.

Day to day operations are handled by the MAPS office, whose staff members are all City employees.

Focusing on Quality of Life

By focusing on quality of life public enhancements, Oklahoma City has tranformed itself into a special place since 1993.

1993: OKC's economy is sinking, things are getting worse. The entire center city was in shambles from urban blight. In order to improve OKC's situation, OKC leaders decide to lure employers with wads of cash to come to OKC, but not even that would work.. they just flat-out did not want to come to OKC. In one of these failed deals, the city offered major incentives to United Airlines to put their maintenance center here, and UA turned it down and took a less impressive offer from Indianapolis because, "nobody would want to live in a place like OKC." (That was a news headline.)

2009: The rankings speak for themselves.

#3 on BusinessWeek's Forty Strongest U.S. Metro Economies

#1 on Fortune Magazine's list of best places to start a business

Top 20% of all metro's in GDP growth, U.S. Dept of Commerce

28 of the nation's 500 fastest-growing companies

Top Ten in BusinessWeek's Strongest Housing Markets in the U.S.

#1 on fastest-growing per capita income for a large MSA, U.S. Dept of Commerce

#2 for volunteer hours, #7 for overall volunteerism among major U.S. metros.

#4 Best Undervalued Place to Live, U.S. News & World Report

#8 for Indeed's Best Cities to Look for a Job

#2 on the Brooking's Institution's list of best-performing cities during the recession

#4 in ArtBistro's Top 25 Cities for Artists and Designers

#4 for's Best Cities for Your Career

#1 on FDI's (Foreign Direct Investment) on list of most cost-effective large cities

#1 on BusinessWeek's most affordable major metros

Top Ten, Mat Hoffman Action Sports Park on National Geographic's Ten Best Things for Families

#37 on The Sporting News' Best Sports Cities (Toronto is #36, Austin is #38)

#28 on the Today Show's Best Places to Raise a Family

#7 on Forbes' Top Ten Cleanest Cities

#4 on Forbes' Best Cities for Commuters

#1 on Forbes' Most Recession-Proof Cities

#4 on BizJournal's 10 Least Stressful Metros

Images of Downtown Oklahoma City Today

An aerial of downtown Oklahoma City.  Image by Bryan Valles at

The historic Colcord Hotel across the street from the convention center. Image at:

Completed in 2002, the Ford Center is the home of the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder franchise.  Formerly the Supersonics, this franchise relocated from Seattle in 2008.

The Oklahoma City Memorial. Image by matthewlrigdon at

Ocklahoma City City Hall:,_City_Hall.jpg

Look north from the intersection of S Robinson Avenue and W Reno Avenue.  Image by joevare at

The Crystal Bridge/Myriad Gardens. Image by joevare at

Oklahoma City Downtown Skyline:


Once a major warehouse district and the original site of the city, Bricktown is a growing entertainment district in downtown Oklahoma City. It is home to the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark and the navigable Bricktown Canal.

Other attractions include the Oklahoma Land Run monument, numerous bars and dance clubs, casual and fine dining restaurants, retail shops such as Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, a Harkins movie theatre, hotels such as Residence Inn by Marriott, and live music venues, including Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill. The corporate headquarters of Sonic Drive In is also located here.

Bricktown.  Image by joevare at

Sonic is based out of Oklahoma City:

The Bricktown entertainment district is within walking distance of the Cox Convention Center.  Image by jordanmac101 at

Country Music Star Toby Keith's "I love this bar and grill" Restaurant in Bricktown.  Image by Serge Melki at

The Oklahoma Hardware Company in Bricktown. Image by Serge Melki at

The Oklahoma Land Run (Land Rush) Centennial Monument is the largest bronze structure in the world.  Image by Serge Melki at

Bricktown Before and After

Just look at the difference between 1997/98 and 2003/04; the difference that about 5 years made in Bricktown. In the top picture, you see no canal, and just absolute blight, yet the Bricktown Ballpark is under construction at the end of the ally, which does provide some sort of time stamp on the picture. In the 2nd pic obviously the Canal is finished and the area has opened up with new businesses.


Fresh off the success of MAPS and MAPS2, MAPS3 is intended to take Oklahoma City to the next level by heavily focusing on connectivity and creating a vibrant central urban environment.

MAPS3 Projects:

$280 million - A new downtown convention center, adjacent to the new central park, featuring 400,000 square feet of exhibition hall space.

$130 million - 70-acre central park linking downtown with the Oklahoma River.

$130 million - 5 to 6 mile rail-based streetcar system

 $60 million - Oklahoma River improvements, including a whitewater kayaking facility and upgrades to achieve the finest rowing racecourse in the world.

 $60 million - Renovations to State Fair Park public buildings, meeting halls and exhibit spaces.

 $50 million - State-of-the-art health and wellness aquatic centers throughout the city designed for senior citizens.

 $40 million - 57 miles of new public bicycling and walking trails throughout the city.

 $10 million - For sidewalks to be placed on major streets and near facilities used by the public throughout the city.

 $17 million - Contingency funds to cover unforeseen costs.

MAPS3 Project Images

The 70-acre central park will include a restaurant, lake, amphitheater, dog park, skating rink and other amenities.

The proposed $100 million five mile streetcar line will form a U-shape, starting in the historic neighborhoods NW of downtown and cut through downtown before going through the Bricktown area and terminating at the State Capitol complex.  The streetcar will be powered by renewable wind energy generated in the western part of Oklahoma.  Also, included is a proposed $40 million conversion of the bus system to run on Oklahoma-produced natural gas.

For more information visit:

The proposed new convention center (left) and Oklahoma River improvements (right).

MAPS 3 Passes

On December 8, 2009, Oklahoma City residents voted in favor of MAPS 3.

For Mayor Mick Cornett and supporters, the result means that "Oklahoma City's golden age continues." There was plenty of opposition leading up to Tuesday's vote, but Oklahoma City residents approved the MAPS 3 initiative with more than 54 percent of the vote. Election board officials estimate a total voter turnout of 31 percent, significantly higher than most local elections. Final vote numbers were 40,956 yes and 34,465 no.

Therefore, the additional penny sales tax will remain in effect in Oklahoma City for seven years and nine months beginning April 1st. A citizen oversight board will be created in the coming weeks, and the order of projects will then be determined. Cornett has said he expects the downtown park to be one of the earlier projects and hopes it will be open by 2014.

What this means for Jacksonville

While Jacksonville remains stuck in neutral on quality of life issues, the world around us continues to move forward.  Another peer city has taken aggressive steps to move to the next level.

Article by Ennis Davis