It’s a pedestrian walkway and shortcut. An urban escape. A visitor destination for out-of-towners. A whisper chamber and acoustic anomaly. A Party Plaza and concert venue. A place to take a date and even propose.
The Center of the Universe has served many purposes and whatever it has been to you we can all agree that four decades of love and experiences has taken its toll on this Downtown destination. Opened in the early 1980’s, the Boston Avenue Pedestrian Bridge, otherwise known as the Center of the Universe, is an important civic-space and first-day visitor destination in Downtown Tulsa. It serves as a passageway to hundreds of employees each day and as a gathering place to many others. In recent years, the plaza’s condition has fallen on hard times and does not live up to its full potential as a respite for visitors - it’s Downtown Tulsa’s public space most in need of improvement.
It’s time for us to Reimagine the Center of the Universe.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
Reimagining the Center of the Universe is a public-private partnership led by Downtown Tulsa Partnership and City of Tulsa, among other partners, to repair and renovate the Center of the Universe Plaza and Boston Avenue Bridge. Initially conceived as a plaza renovation in December 2019, the project was paused at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic before restarting in 2021 with the City undertaking a structural survey to determine the viability of making surface improvements and to understand the structure’s remaining lifespan.
With knowledge of the repairs needed to keep the pedestrian bridge functioning for decades to come, we are now able to begin planning for improvements to the pedestrian plaza including new pathways, lighting, landscaping, public art, and other amenities. Downtown Tulsa Partnership will commence a community engagement and planning process in February 2022 in order to provide the City with a final report and conceptual design by the end of May with plans for construction to commence by the end of the year. This process will inform the types of improvements to be made and future programming and operational needs.
As part of this project, a restricted maintenance reserve fund will be established to ensure that funding exists for capital repair and maintenance moving forward. Upon completion, Downtown Tulsa Partnership will take an active role in maintaining and activating the public space.
Share your memories from the Center of the Universe and ideas or inspiration for improvements that you would like to see and stay tuned for more ways to engage with this process.
PROJECT BUDGET & TIMELINE
The present estimated total project cost is $7.64M. The City of Tulsa has identified capital funding to support both the repair of the Boston Avenue Bridge structure and as well as partial funding for the plaza improvements. The Downtown Tulsa Partnership is fundraising for additional dollars to support plaza improvements. Parties interested in supporting this project can contact the Downtown Tulsa Partnership.
Boston Avenue Bridge Structural Repairs - $4.14M
Center of the Universe Plaza Improvements - $3.25M
Plaza Maintenance Reserve Fund - $.25M
Estimated Total Project Cost - $7.64M
Community Engagement and Conceptual Plaza Planning – Q1&Q2
Great question but we don’t know! A community-led engagement process will guide the conceptual design for the pedestrian bridge and plaza. All we know right now is new pavement, new lighting, new landscaping, and new public art will be used to create a destination for Downtown residents, workers, and visitors. Is there something you’d like to see? Share it here.
What will happen to the audible anomaly that everyone likes to experience at the center of the Center of the Universe?
Nothing….we hope. Because there is no known cause for that fun echo chamber you experience, there’s not a known way to 100% guarantee that it remains in place during this project. That said, designers and contractors will be required to collaborate with sound engineers and other experts to protect this local treasure.
What about public art?
More public art, please! Plaza improvement plans will include new public art that enhances the space and provides interactive experiences for visitors. “Trace”, the lighted brick art installation, has met the end of its useful life and will be removed. There are no present plans to modify “Artificial Cloud”. Any work surrounding public art will be done in concert with the City of Tulsa Arts Commission and community engagement.
I like the Center of the Universe just the way it is…. why change it?
We get it. There’s something funky and cool about 1980’s-era plaza designs that we hate to lose too. In fact, you can’t truly appreciate the existing design until you see it from above. Here’s the big ‘but’…the structural condition of the Boston Avenue Bridge (upon which Center of the Universe stands) necessitates significant repairs to the underside and surface of the bridge. We have an opportunity to build a space that serves pedestrians walking from one side of the tracks to the other while providing a new destination that Tulsa deserves. That and we’ve run out of bricks since people keep stealing them…honestly who does that?!
What is up with the asphalt patches that appeared recently?
See the last sentence of the last answer (honestly, who does that?!) There were too many tripping hazards to let the bridge remain in its current state and since this improvement project has been in the works, we decided it was best to remove those hazards in the quickest and easiest way possible, hence the asphalt patches. Don’t worry…we’re not planning for an entire path of asphalt patches.
$7.6M seems like a lot of money for a plaza refresh We wish we had that much to focus solely on the plaza (keep in mind it’s the length of an entire city block) but we have less than half of that. More than half of the budget is allocated to necessary structural repairs to the pedestrian bridge structure to ensure that it can stay open. Private funding is being raised to make needed improvements to the plaza and approaches to keep it functioning as well as other enhancements to make it a desirable space to visit and gather.