The Duncan Banner

April 7, 2013

Downtown ideas, again

Ed Darling
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — Several of you liked recent suggestions of ways to transform downtown. A few said the ideas need to be repeated regularly so they remain in front of city leaders, Main Street officials, businesses, property owners and financial supporters.

Here are those ideas, again.

Downtown Duncan remains the heart and soul of our community. It represents our heritage, our past and provides an insight into who we were and who we are. It represents our history and reminds us of important people and places. It offers a lasting impression of our city’s pride, of its character. It is the image visitors remember.

Compared to many, Duncan’s downtown is vibrant and active. Our inclusion as one of Oklahoma’s original Main Street communities has been an obvious plus and there remains a commitment to preserve the district.

It may, however, be time to consider some improvements or revitalization that makes it more inviting, adds to its attractiveness, stimulates a program that fills its vacant stores and increases its value as a signature of our community.

Let’s soften the look.

Let’s ask the city – downtown’s largest property owner – to lead a project that creates a median down the middle of Main Street from 10th Street to 8th Street and plant professional landscaper-approved uniform-sized and spaced hardwood trees (or even crepe myrtles) that add beauty and greenery.

From curb to curb, we have 68 feet, providing adequate room for the improvements.

To ensure that, let’s change downtown parking from horizontal to parallel, encouraging business owners and their employees to park behind their buildings or in parking lots throughout the district, leaving open prime spots for customers.

Let’s create a more friendly pedestrian atmosphere by adding hanging baskets and potted plants to each of the existing period lampposts and let’s remind both local residents and visitors regularly of the remarkable sandstone colored stepping stones of a Memory Lane that chronicles so well and so uniquely our city’s history.

And let’s revisit the idea of altering store hours for the convenience of shoppers and buyers instead of catering only to the unemployed by being open from 9 to 5, five days a week.

It’s economic development in the purest sense and is a project worthy of consideration by the city, the county, organizations like the Duncan Area Economic Development Foundation (DAEDF), the Duncan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Main Street Duncan and groups like downtown financial institutions, property owners and business people.

Impossible, you say?

Main Street is indeed a designated state highway, but travel patterns have changed over the years and the local engineering office of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) would be the ideal place to float such a suggestion.

For years, Oklahoma City’s NW 23rd Street, stretching from Oklahoma City University to Byron’s Liquor Warehouse and virtually in the shadows of the state capitol, has been a grand and similar thoroughfare.

Its street width is slightly wider, but its trees, especially in bloom, are beautiful, its parallel parking seems to work well and its normal traffic flow is far more brisk, suggesting the Duncan concept has legitimate merit.

If for some reason, an alternate plan might accomplish a comparable softening, forgo the median and insert symmetrically spaced tree-planting grates in the sidewalks and add the hanging baskets and potted plants.

For further distinction, let’s install a giant American flag -- First Bank and Trust’s flag at its north branch is simply spectacular -- in the middle of the Main and 10th Street intersection.

We often, with pride, refer to our community as Duncan, America. What could or even should be more symbolic of that pride than a huge illuminated flag blowing in the Oklahoma wind and reminding us of our patriotic blessings. Dedicate it to our many veterans, our former mayors, prominent families or other special groups for added significance.

Our friends at ODOT would likely frown on a fixed object in the middle of a busy intersection, but perhaps not. Or perhaps an alternative would be the corner of a block or some other suitable and centrally located site.

The recommended 120- to 150-foot pole for a 30-foot-by-.60-foot flag the size of First Bank’s would cost roughly $30,000 for installation and insurance. Flags would be approximately $1,500 apiece and need to be replaced several times a year.

Flight path restrictions for Halliburton Field might be a pole height factor, but again, a good conversation could address and likely resolve that.

As a can-do community, we have the experience and opportunity to make good things even better.

Softening the look of downtown Duncan, creating a more enticing hub for business, spurring economic development and preserving not only our past but the present and future seems a logical step forward.

580-255-5354, Ext. 130