By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
Air Depot Boulevard has a rich history in Midwest City.
For several years, it has served as the city’s main commercial corridor linking destinations and businesses. But as business has shifted to other parts of town, city leaders are exploring ways to revive the area.
“We want to find ways to revitalize it mostly with city involvement and using grant programs to make it a better environment for business and city quality of life in general,” said Robert Coleman, Midwest City economic development director.
The first step in the process is a comprehensive study of the Air Depot Blvd. corridor between SE 15th St. and the former Heritage Park Mall area.
The city received a $60,000 grant from the Midwest Community Grant Program to study the Air Depot Blvd. corridor. The grant covered 75% of the cost of the study. The Economic Development Authority provided the additional funding.
Midwest City hired Catalyst Commercial Inc. to conduct the study. The Dallas based consultant firm specializes in innovative solutions for public and private entities. The firm also partnered with the city on a previous study for the Heritage Park Mall property.
The Air Depot Blvd. study will look for ways to improve the functionality of the area, identify uses to improve local commercial needs, improve quality of life through retail service, trails and jobs.
Coleman said when they started the program they had five major points to address. The first point is to identify weaknesses and opportunities of the district. Second, includes completing a feasibility study leading to corridor improvement plan development plan that would address physical and economic problems within the district. Thirdly, they will identify structures for possible improvement or redevelopment. And they will be exploring possibility of public/private partnerships.
“We’re doing this all while preserving the historic spirit and legacy of the corridor and what really is Midwest City’s main street,” Coleman said.
Midwest City hosted a luncheon last Thursday to receive public input on the Air Depot Blvd. corridor and possible ways to improve it. City officials, business owners and others in community attended the event.
Jason Claunch, with Catalyst, said they are taking a holistic approach that will consider a variety of factors in redeveloping the area.
“We want to think about connectivity, activity and diversity which could be ethnic and economic as well as merchandise diversity,” he said. “…We’re looking at mixed uses with commercial uses and maybe some residential uses and obviously quality and safety.”
Claunch also outlined some of the challenges of the area including fragmented ownership, lack of identity, proximity of residential areas, pedestrian conflicts, auto dependency, blight conditions at the mall and lack of certainty and vision, and declining retail quality.
Attendees participated in several exercises to provide feedback for the study. They included identifying the corridor strengths and weaknesses, as well as a vision, priorities and ways to activate the area.
Coleman said the results of study could have influence in several ways including:
-Guiding public investment in the area, specifically sidewalk, trail, landscaping, lighting and right-of-way connectivity improvements.
– Provide the basis for changes to land use policies and ordinances, including the establishment of a special planning district and/or overlay district.
– Information obtained from the study could also be used as the basis for determining future public/private partnerships along the route.
– Data could also be used to suggest future acquisitions for public improvements in the form of small parks and other public areas.
Coleman said they hope to have the study completed by summer.