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OKC Adds Sustainability and Historic Preservation Guides For Future Development Plans

Josh Robinson / KOSU
Looking north from Capitol Hill in south Oklahoma City

In a city that has razed many of its historic buildings in the mid 20th century in an effort to revitalize Oklahoma City's downtown, future planning is top of mind for two new amendments in the city's planning guide, planOKC.

The Oklahoma City Planning Commission adopted both preserveOKC and adaptOKC as amendments to planOKC.  AdaptOKC is the city's first sustainability plan, while preserveOKC is the first historic preservation plan.

T.O. Bowman, the city’s sustainability manager, says adaptOKC has both elements of climate adaptation and sustainabilty which, when joined together, combines the practicality of resource conservation and ambitions of continuous improvement as OKC, like many other cities, continues to experience worsening effects of climate change.

"That means an increase in both average annual temperatures and the risk of flash flooding," Bowman said. 

He says for the layperson, an increase in both average annual temperatures translates to up to 27 more days reaching the top 2% of hot days by mid-century. Those top 2% temperatures are anything 95 degrees to 100 degrees, according to the National Cimate Assessment v4. 

In other words, high temperatures will be hotter during the day more often - and overnight lows won't provide much relief. 

Some of the efforts proposed to address how the city will deal with hotter and drier summers, air pollution and electricity costs include: building more energy-efficient structures, increasing shade and cool spots in the urban areas, reducing requirments for minimum parking so there are fewer surfaces to absorb heat. 

"We hope to make processes like permiting for solar panels or electric vehicle charging stations a little easier to understand so that we can remove barriers - whether real or percieved - that may be in the way of widespread adoption of practices that reduce emissions," Bowman said. 

Katie Friddle was lead on the preserveOKC effort, the city's first historic preservation plan, along with her collegues Susan Atkinson, Angela Yetter and Cameron Conyers. Friddle is the division manager for Current Planning and Urban Design, which includes historic preservation. 

Friddle said protecting this city's history is critical and has to be everyone's responsibility. 

"We need to build that public support for historic preservation as an intergral part of what makes our city a great place to live," Friddle said.

She also said it isn't true that revitalization is just for famous buildings, or expensive - and that the criteria for what to preserve is driven by the people of Oklahoma City and their wants. 

"The plan [preserveOKC] emphasizes looking in an area that is undergoing redevelopment and revitalization and building on what's already there," Friddle said. 

Areas around OKC that have incorporated historic preservation into revitalization include Automobile Alley, Uptown 23rd District and Capitol Hill. PreserveOKC would extend those efforts across the city.

In a city news release, city planning director Geoff Butler said it was fitting for the two plans to be presented together because "our history informs our plans for the future."

"These plans, which represent years of hard work from staff, stake holders and volunteers, will help decision-makers continue moving Oklahoma City forward long into the future," Butler said.

Kateleigh Mills is the Special Projects reporter for KOSU.
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