If you keep up with all things City of Edmond, you might recall that back in February, there was quite a buzz around three letters and a weeklong visit to Edmond. The three letters are U-L-I. In case you missed the week where those three letters were all a-buzz here in Edmond, ULI stands for Urban Land Institute.
The City of Edmond hired the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Advisory Board Panel to do an urban study of our lovely city. This meant that for one week, a group of nine professionals from a variety of cities located throughout the US, each well-versed in their area of expertise dealing with real estate, city planning, urban core, and much more, ascended on Edmond to identity all the pain points and help us predict the brightest future that our city could potentially flourish into. The City of Edmond gets great kudos from me for taking such a valiant step by even inviting ULI and beginning this conversation!
Not only did the ULI Panel venture throughout our city and explore multiple areas, but they also took the time to sit down with 100+ community members to ask questions and hear “straight from the horse’s mouth” what those living and working in Edmond experience currently in our city, and what we dream it can become. I was honored to be included in that 100, and I immensely enjoyed my conversation with my boss, Shannon Price, and with ULI Panelists Ann Chambers Taylor and Matt Brandon.
Through our discussion about ways to improve walkability, continue the positive growth of new and exciting businesses in our city, and me continually driving home my opinion that we need a centralized figure coordinating the events and marketing of Downtown Edmond; it became evident to me that I had been invited to be interview largely to shed light on the young professional perspective of an Edmondite. I happily obliged, and I hope I did my demographic a good service by speaking to what “we” want out of our city.
Following the week of gathering, exploring, and interviewing, the ULI Panel presented its findings to the community at UCO. I attended and was pleased to see many community leaders, and 30+ of those falling into the “young professional” category, in attendance.
Key recommendations that the Panel shared included (sourced from www.ULI.org):
- Acknowledging the changing demographics and desires of people looking to live in Edmond.
- Providing a broader range of housing options allows the downtown core to evolve into a vibrant, active district.
- Identifying locations for Essential Working Housing
- Reassess the Conceptual Plan for the new City Hall.
- Creates several Linchpin Positions focused on Downtown including:
o Central Edmond Development Ombudsman
o Main Street Manager
o Director of Marketing, Communications and Programming
- Create a new platform for Pedestrians and Bicycles in, around and beyond downtown.
- Re-size key streets to balance their volume and circulation functions downtown.
- Upgrade alleys throughout downtown district
- Consider a new location for the Future Train Station closer to downtown.
- Move the Farmers market.
- and most importantly, Create Main Street Square as the Central Organizing Feature and Gathering Place for Downtown.
While none of the Panel’s findings surprised me, I was delighted to see how on target they seemed with sentiments I have felt and heard from other young pros. Throughout the presentation, I, and those sitting around me, shared excitement and hope as, indeed an “idealistic” vision for the growth of our city was laid out. Now I, and I assume others, are left with the question, “so what is next”? It my hope that this was not purely an experiment, show, or “vision casting”, but that is it what our city means to implement.
Of course, those that keep their ears to ground on Edmond’s happenings know that while there are so many of us cheering on the positive growth and enhancements to our city, there is a group of nay-sayers that, while few in number, the elevation of their voices echo loudly and tend to curb our tenacity to take on the projects that the vast majority of our city citizens desire to unfold.
To that group, I would like to say, you enjoy our events, the services our city and organizations provide. You like the young person that works at your local bank, the firefighter that serves your city, and the friendly brew tender that pours your beer at your favorite brewery. Still, when it comes to allowing the building of places they can afford, and the city improvements they seek, you protest with words of, “We don’t want those people in our city”. These are your children and the future parents of your grandchildren. Suppose the City of Edmond is not released from the hackles of this group’s agenda that extends to political issues beyond city planning and infrastructure. In that case, young people will seek other communities to call home, work in, volunteer with, and pour into.
Enough of my doom and gloom ramblings; back to the shiny, exciting things! It is a hope of mine and many of my cohorts that the City of Edmond earnestly takes the advisements from the ULI Panel to heart. We are such a great community, and all Edmond has on its horizon is the exponential opportunity to grow wonderfully! That hope and enthusiasm reside in the responsibility of those
leading our city to take courage. Skip taking a small, calculated step; we have the research, the advisements, and the plans. Let us take a leap.
You can learn more about the Urban Land Institute and their findings in Edmond at https://americas.uli.org/edmond-ok-advisory-services-panel/ See the full ULI Edmond Presentation https://www.edmondok.gov/documentcenter/view/