Community weighs in as Claremore’s districts take shape

Community members gathered at Green Eyes Coffee Tuesday night to view and comment on finalized district plans that the planning commission and city council will adopt in May.

Plans for specialized districts in Claremore have been in the works since the beginning of the 2040 Comprehensive Plan.

These plans include a Downtown District, a Historic Route 66 District, a Will Rogers Corridor District and a West Bend – University District.

Each district plan includes information about the district and initiatives for private businesses and developers as well as government and non-governmental organizations to keep in mind while making improvements and decisions for the city.

Community member and Holiday Inn Manager Cyndi Robinson said, “I think this is a great idea. It’s going to help the community grow. As a hotel manager, that’s what we like to see … more reasons for people to stop.”

“These districting initiatives are important because we have to make Claremore more of s destination,” community member John Ray said. “There is a lot of value that Claremore has that we’re not able to capitalize on.”

“None of this is going to happen tomorrow,” Ray said, “but this says we have a plan and this is where we are going. The momentum will build over time.”

DOWTOWN

The Downtown District will be where the community goes to gather, shop, dine and enjoy, according to the vision statement.

The plan highlights initiatives that provoke significant and rapid change as well as financial, market, regulatory, physical and organizational initiatives that will have a more subtle impact.

The catalyzing initiatives include a locally owned boutique hotel; a brewery or pub restaurant to serve as a community meeting space; more cottage style housing with alley loaded garages and shared open spaces; and public art.

“A small hotel is really a great idea,” community member Fred Dunlap said. “And anything that would allow us to get higher quality restaurants and the neighborhoods to support it.”

Financially the plan calls for researching neighborhood incentive programs for rewarding reinvestment in established buildings and administering a façade matching grant and low interest loan program for property owners in the district, funded by Community Reinvestment Act resources.

The market initiatives of the plan include sharing market reconnaissance from the planning effort with local and regional leaders; retaining a professional real estate consultant to facilitate an alternative housing focus group; and working with property owners and real estate brokers to understand the benefits of pop-up and short-term business opportunities.

Regulatory plans include: issuing a request for business operators to establish a brew pub, coffee roaster, and other boutique business operations; adopting a historic preservation zoning ordinance to provide local and limited protections for historic resources; creating and appointing members to a Claremore Preservation Commission; preparing a redevelopment code amendment to the building code customized for older building; establishing district-wide guidelines and standards to ensure consistent design, quality and character; and developing a pattern book for established neighborhoods surrounding the district that encourages alternative housing forms.

Physically the plan includes: incorporating public restrooms downtown; introducing roadway accommodations for bicycles; and adding decorative lighting, patterned concrete, sidewalk improvements and public art throughout the district.

The organizational part of the plan includes: recruiting a qualified director for Claremore Main Street; having CIEDA, the city, RSU and the chamber of commerce collectively determine the appropriate entity to lead and monitor implementation of initiatives intended to stabilize surrounding neighborhoods; establishing an arm of CIEDA to acquire, assemble and position strategically located properties in the district for development by private industry; and continuing the city’s established mural program.

HISTORIC ROUTE 66

The Historic Route 66 District will be the place visitors experience, stay, and connect their understanding of this diverse roadway and its role in America’s past, according to the vision statement.

Community member Fred Dunlap and Anne Ricker, a consultant on the Comprehensive Plan and districting efforts, both said that the Historic Route 66 District was the district they were most excited about.

“It’s an old highway with a lot of history,” Ricker said. “You could not believe how many states have set up funds to bring it back.”

The plan highlights financial, regulatory, physical and organizational initiatives to move the district forward as well as long term and miscellaneous projects.

Financially the plan calls for pursuing state and federal investment tax credits for use by private property owners interested in rehabilitating older buildings and joining national and state organizations charged with revitalizing Route 66.

Regulatory plans include applying for the district to be recognized on the National Register of Historic Places; adopting a historic preservation zoning ordinance; creating and appointing members to a Claremore Preservation Committee; applying for a designation as a certified local government to receive State Historic Preservation Office assistance; and adopting a historic sign ordinance which promotes the use of animation, neon and era-appropriate materials to promote the district’s vintage character.

The organizational section of the plan includes: coordinating marketing effort and the sale of Route 66 goods and services with Claremore Main Street; working with the Claremore Chamber of Commerce to develop businesses that cater to Route 66 travelers; and leveraging existing promotion efforts and expanding their reach.

Physically the plan includes developing public spaces, increasing public art and building on initiatives in the SH 66 Access Road Report.

The miscellaneous and long-term initiatives include applying for recognition by the State Historic Preservation Office, establishing a Business Improvement District, creating a Historic 66 10k event and creating a period relevant restaurant.

WILL ROGERS CORRIDOR

The Will Rogers Corridor District will be the place residents, students and visitors go to find commercial goods and services, dining opportunities, and employment; while moving within and through the community, according to the vision statement.

The corridor is expected to be a challenge because it represents the national decline in retail spaces.

“Everyone will stay in love with downtown, but not many people love a commercial corridor,” Ricker said.

The plan highlights financial, regulatory, physical and organizational initiatives to move the district forward as well as long-term projects.

Financially the plan calls for public commitment leading the way for private investment in the forms of placemaking advancements, providing access to financial experts through the chamber of commerce and CIEDA and working with banks to create low interest loans for businesses.

Regulatory plans include: establishing guidelines for consistent design, working with historians to understand the history of the corridor, preserving and protecting the history, and ensuring building codes do not preclude solutions to infrastructure deficiencies.

Physically the plan is to ensure that future capital investments contribute to the desired character of the roadway and its vibrancy while demonstrating state-of-the-art solutions to infrastructure issues. This can be done through detention and flood plain improvements, shared amenities, activating drainage areas as usable public spaces and creating safety barriers to protect pedestrians and cyclists.

The organizational section of the plan solely relies on empowering organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and CIEDA to lead revitalization efforts with little city input.

The long-term initiatives are to incorporate a business improvement district and bicycle and pedestrian enhancements.

WEST BEND-UNIVERSITY

DISTRICT

The West Bend and University District will be the place where residents, students, visitors and leaders go to learn, live, play and remember the best of Claremore’s past and it’s possibilities for the future, according to the vision statement.

Comprehensive Plan and districting consultant Gary Mitchell said he was most excited for the West Bend District.

“From the very beginning people have talked about Claremore’s potential to be more of a college town,” Mitchell said. “If there are draws and students can get here safely, this district has the potential for things to happen quickly.”

“This district is going to be so nice for Claremore,” said community member Kim Marcotte, who recently opened her business Green Eyes Coffee and Café in the area. “I think this growth and new ideas are great for Claremore.”

The plan highlights market, regulatory, physical and organizational initiatives to move the district forward.

The market initiatives for the area are to retain a specialist in place identity building to craft a brand for the area and to support continued private investment development projects.

Regulatory plans include: establishing guidelines for consistent design, developing a pattern book for established neighborhoods and further specifying zoning requirements for the area.

Physically the plan is to ensure that future capital investments contribute to the desired character of the district while demonstrating state-of-the-art solutions to infrastructure issues. This can be done through detention and flood plain improvements, shared amenities, activating drainage areas as usable public spaces, creating safety barriers to protect pedestrians and cyclists and installing sidewalks throughout.

Organizationally the plan is to empower Rogers State University to take a more active role in the growth of the district alongside CIEDA and the Chamber of Commerce.