Innovation in Oklahoma City
by Cathy O’Connor
The Brookings Institution, along with the Project for Public Spaces, recently released the findings of their 18-month study on Oklahoma City’s proposed innovation district.
The designated area connects the Oklahoma Health Center on the east side of Interstate 235 to Automobile Alley on the west. But the innovation district is so much more than a physical location. It is a new way of thinking about public spaces and opportunities for collaboration. It is focused on creating a magnetic hub, with walkable spaces and inviting spaces to gather – the kind of place where innovative businesses and skilled workers are attracted.
Some major goals outlined in the report:
Establish an Oklahoma Center for Energy and Health collaboration that serves as a catalyst for innovation, applied research and commercialization. The center would encourage dialogue and look for research applications across industries.
Form a standing committee on diversity and inclusion to better connect the innovation district and the underserved communities surrounding it. The committee would focus on issues including education, workforce development, entrepreneurship, place-making and neighborhood development.
Create a vibrant community outside of work. We’ve identified several underutilized spaces in the district that through improvements, or added programming, would bring people together. Some of the ideas are increased food truck activity, pop-up shops and markets.
Provide more connectivity. The infrastructure in the innovation district was built to accommodate cars, not pedestrians or cyclists. We are looking at how to improve routes and bring more connection points both within the campus and on the major streets that connect to other parts of Oklahoma City, such as 4th, 10th and 13th streets.
Oklahoma City leaders have supported the creation of an innovation district by approving a tax increment financing district. It is the third TIF allocated to this area. The new financing encourages development and fills in the gaps of the existing, and soon to expire, TIFs and expands the approved area. Also, it includes funding for education and workforce development – something no other Oklahoma City TIF has provided.
We all benefit by making our city more competitive and attractive when we invest in collaborative partnerships; encourage health and technology companies, entrepreneurs and startup companies to locate in Oklahoma City; and when we develop a workforce that can be a part of our economic success. This effort will take innovation to another level – one that will recast Oklahoma City as an entrepreneurial hub.