MAPping expectations

The park seems to be on track, but other MAPS projects have faced cutbacks even before they began. Despite voters approving a $280 million convention center when MAPS 3 passed in 2009, the project received a haircut last year when the City Council members voted to put $30 million of those funds into a contingency fund.

The latest project that looks like it may be less than promised is the sidewalks.

Voters approved the $777 million MAPS, which included $9.1 million for 70 miles of new sidewalks. The project would be in addition to new sidewalks planned as part of a 2007 general obligation bond. Members of the City Council were surprised in August to learn that those funds would pay for only 25.68 miles of sidewalks, based on a report by consultant Smith Roberts Baldischwiler.

“This is well below what we originally anticipated,” says Ward 8 Councilman Patrick Ryan.

SRB’s
Gary Nolan says the criteria his team used placed potential sidewalks
near schools, transit, employment and libraries. Original estimates also
called for four-foot, rather than five-foot-wide, sidewalks, and did
not account for easements, driveways and obstacles such as drainage
ditches. Nor did original estimates include provisions to comply with
the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Sidewalk
subcommittee members say they were rushed to approve the plan. Georgie
Rasco, executive director of Neighborhood Alliance and a member of the
subcommittee, says if citizens don’t get what they voted for and paid
for, it not only could reduce the quality and size of the project, but
also set a precedent going forward.

“Sidewalks
are an incredibly emotional issue in this city,” she says. “It is part
of what really brought people to the polls to vote on MAPS.”

City
Manager Jim Couch says there are options, such as the nearly $50
million in the MAPS contingency from $17 million originally allotted for
that purpose, and the $30 million from the convention center budget.

The
Downtown park faces much less controversy. Park plans were discussed in
public meetings in September and October, with a final meeting set for
December. Consultant Mary Margaret Jones, with Hargreaves Associates,
gave an overview of large and small public parks her firm has worked on
around the country.

The Oklahoma City park is set to include 70 acres – a
40-acre upper park and a 30-acre lower park – and cost about $132
million. Work is set to begin next year, and be completed over the next
decade.

Jones says the city must decide what it wants in the park, and how future operations and upkeep will be funded.

“We have a budget,” she says. “It can’t be everything, but we want to begin to understand priorities.”

Jones says her team expects to have a master plan completed next spring.

“All of that will come together to create a world-class park,” she says.

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