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Preliminary Design for Downtown Tulsa's Reimagined Center of the Universe Ready for Public Input
Oct. 18, 2022 — The public is invited to share their feedback on a preliminary design for the reimagined Center of the Universe Plaza and Boston Avenue Bridge in Downtown Tulsa. The rendering and survey link are available at recentertheuniverse.com.
A community engagement event, Hangout at the Center of the Universe, is planned for Tuesday, Oct. 25, at the south end of the pedestrian bridge. From 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and 4:30-6:30 p.m., Tulsans can enjoy live music from local artists, food trucks and giant yard games before or after taking the survey.
Reimagining the Center of the Universe is a public-private partnership led by Downtown Tulsa Partnership and the 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.
“Since February 2022, we have met with and listened to residents, workers and key stakeholders via focus groups and one-on-one conversations to learn more about what makes this unique space special to Tulsans," said Brian Kurtz, President & CEO of Downtown Tulsa Partnership. “We’ve heard from hundreds of Tulsans via email about their memories and experiences at the Center of the Universe and what improvements they’d like to see, and the design team has worked hard to present a preliminary design concept that respects the space’s history and Downtown’s forward trajectory. This is Tulsans’ opportunity to let us know if we’re on the right track.”
Initial input and feedback expressed that users and visitors of the space want to ensure the plaza and its approaches remain accessible and usable by the public and that the design incorporates more trees and landscaping, lighting and public art, flexible seating, passive and active spaces, and shade from the sun. The design team of MKSK Studios, Selser Schaefer Architects, and JEA Acoustics have prepared preliminary design concepts based on this feedback and the importance of maintaining the acoustic anomaly at the Center of the Universe Plaza.
The total project cost is currently estimated at $7.64 million with more than $4 million allocated to critical structural repairs to the 100-year-old Boston Avenue Bridge. The City of Tulsa has identified capital funding to support both the repair of the bridge structure as well as partial funding for the plaza improvements, to include new pathways, lighting, landscaping, public art, and other amenities. Downtown Tulsa Partnership is fundraising for additional dollars to support plaza improvements, which are being supported with more than $1 million from the AEP Foundation though Public Service Company of Oklahoma.
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 programming and activating the public space.
The preliminary design survey will be open through Oct. 28, and engagement opportunities will continue through November. The final conceptual design and report will be unveiled in December, with construction expected to begin next spring. For more details and ongoing updates, visit recentertheuniverse.com.
About Downtown Tulsa Partnership
Downtown Tulsa Partnership Inc. was established in 2021 by property owners, business representatives and civic leaders to advocate for and champion the continued improvement of Downtown Tulsa. The organization has entered into an agreement with the City of Tulsa to provide enhanced maintenance, beautification and livability services; mobility and public realm planning; and marketing and place enhancement initiatives funded through the Tulsa Stadium Improvement District that result in a thriving, vibrant and inclusive urban neighborhood.