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 1980s, 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.
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.
With knowledge of the repairs needed to keep the pedestrian bridge functioning for decades to come, we are planning improvements to the pedestrian plaza including new pathways, lighting, landscaping, public art, and other amenities. Since February, we have been conducting community engagement and working with design firm MKSK Studios to scope a redesign of the bridge that carries everything special and unique about the bridge forward into an enhanced, improved design. Our redesign concept has been finalized with the help of significant public input generated over a 6-month engagement period. On December 12, 2022, we unveiled the final concept to the public. The project is moving forward into design and construction with an anticipated construction start date of Fall/Winter 2023.
The final feasibility study can be found here.
The City of Tulsa has identified capital funding to support both the repair of the Boston Avenue Bridge structure as well as partial funding for the plaza improvements. Downtown Tulsa Partnership is fundraising for additional dollars to support plaza improvements. Parties interested in supporting this project can contact Downtown Tulsa Partnership.
Boston Avenue Bridge Structural Repairs: $4.14M
Estimated Center of the Universe Plaza Improvements: $3.25M - $6.25M
Plaza Maintenance Reserve Fund: $.25M
Estimated Total Project Cost: $7.64M – $10.64M
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What will happen to the audible anomaly that everyone likes to experience at the center of the Center of the Universe?
Nothing ... We hope. Throughout the redesign scoping process, Engineers at JE Acoustics have provided acoustic features analysis and design input to ensure our redesign preserves the existing acoustic anomaly. Our current design preserves the inner-most concrete walls at the Center of the Universe Plaza that are responsible for the fun effect.
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 1980s-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.