In the early 2000s, downtown Norman was in a tough spot.
Malls and big box stores had done some damage, and Norman’s Main Street was littered with buildings full of history and void of tenants.
But in 2004, the City underwent a project to revitalize the downtown area, starting with wider sidewalks and landscaping intended to maintain the historic roots of the street.
While the project only took place on a three-block stretch of road, over the years, the area has seen a flood of new businesses and new life.
According to Barbara Tartar, senior landscape architect at LandPlan consulting and the developer that planned Ardmore’s streetscape project, there are a lot of parallels between Norman and Ardmore’s downtown area.
She said LandPlan has worked on over 20 streetscape projects in Oklahoma and “Norman is the closest comparison I can think of.”
“People are longing for a core downtown they can go to versus shopping at malls or online,”: Tartar said. “People are looking for history and beautiful areas they can enjoy, experience and go into. Ardmore has that. It’s just a matter of making it look nicer and making it easier to access.”
Tartar said their job at LandPlan is enhancing the historic buildings and bones of downtown areas while also modernizing the streets to foster more foot traffic and business.
Phase I of the streetscape project includes widening sidewalks to six-feet and turning East Main Street from Washington to Caddo into a two-way road, incorporating a landscaped median instead of the current middle lane of the three-lane road.
Construction on the $3.4 million project is slated to complete in March of 2019, pushing construction into the holidays.
But Keith Franklin, president of LandPlan, said it’ll be worth the wait for Ardmore businesses and residents.
In his years at LandPlan, Franklin said a streetscape project is often the first domino to fall, causing a chain reaction of improvement in downtown areas.
“It can start a roller coaster reaction as businesses look to upgrade to match their facades with the surrounding sidewalks and landscaping,” Franklin said.
And while the majority of their work has been in smaller towns, Franklin said like the streetscape in Norman, the focus in Ardmore will be on attracting and enhancing local restaurants and ‘boutique shopping’ instead of chain dining and chain retail.
One way he said the streetscape will do that is with the wider sidewalks and parking making the area more accessible to pedestrians. Additionally, he said the widened walkways will provide opportunities for patio dining.
“The streetscape is designed to enhance the boutique shopping,” he said. “It’s going to be a better people space.”