Of all the areas in OKC that have seen development over the last decade, perhaps none is more impressive than the Plaza District. Sure, it doesn’t have the luxurious high-rise apartments of Midtown, or the suburban yuppie amenities of Chisolm Creek, but the way it has grown humbly and organically gives that little stretch of 16th street its own hip identity that is unique in this city. It went from a dangerous and destitute few blocks to a place where families eat boutique ice cream and beer snobs can enjoy $14 eight-ounce pours of barrel-aged barleywine.
As the Plaza has grown, so has the demand for parking. Oklahomans have an addiction to driving everywhere, which places a premium on places for us to leave their massive pick-ups and SUVs. One of the few free and reliable areas for north-siders and suburbanites to park their vehicles in the Plaza was next to the Lyric Theater, but it seems like that will change soon. NewsOK reports:
Discord is rising among property owners in the Plaza District following the realization that half of a parking lot used by Lyric Theater was quietly purchased two years ago by Jeff Struble, who is considering ending free use for theater patrons and visitors.
Parking has been in scarce supply over the past few years as the once-dormant commercial corridor along NW 16 has turned into a popular destination lined with restaurants, shops, arts venues and bars.
Lyric Theater still controls a small parking lot that, when there isn’t a show or classes, is free and open to visitors across from its home at 1727 NW 16. The theater also has a larger parking lot next to its children’s theater a block west. That lot was half owned by Lyric and half owned by a longtime area property owner.
Michael Baron, artistic director at Lyric, said the group maintained, lighted and plowed the lot over the years, including the middle section that was separately owned. For years, the owner rejected purchase offers.
“We would have wanted a chance to purchase it,” Baron said. “But we didn’t know it was for sale.”
Click the link to the story if you want all of the dirty gossip, but I’m going to assume most people who clicked this TLO headline are north-sider/suburbanites who have already jumped to the comment section to say, “YES, THEY NEED TO BULLDOZE THAT DANCE SCHOOL AND BUILD A PARKING LOT.”
And to those readers, I will say- the Plaza District does NOT have a parking problem.
To quote an influential urbanist and former city planner of Toronto:
Every great place has a parking problem, & trying to solve the #parking problem often weakens the place. People come for place, not parking.
— Brent Toderian (@BrentToderian) May 12, 2016
The major complaints about parking in the Plaza generally revolve around having to walk two blocks to get a slice of pizza, after parking for free in the surrounding neighborhood. These are also the same people who whine about the lack of free parking downtown, and it must be assumed that they have literally never been to any city larger than OKC in their entire lives.
Seriously, if you are driving in Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, or any other major city in America, there is limited parking, and you’re gonna have to pay for it. On top of that, you’ll still need to hoof it half a mile to your destination after you’ve plopped down $15+ on a private lot (unless you’re lucky and find a street spot that will cost you about the same or more at the meter).
I constantly see hot takes on Twitter where people threaten to “never come back to the Plaza” unless they get free parking. To that, I say: Yes, please, never come back. They are obviously people who don’t live in the immediate area. I live half a mile away from the district and work there, so the neighborhood is basically my backyard. A good chunk of the regulars in that district also live in the surrounding neighborhoods. We walk, bike, Lyft, or even ((shudders)) Bird to the places we want to go.
If you’re upset that you drove all the way from Edmond to get a grilled cheese sandwich and still have to walk ten minutes through a neighborhood that isn’t all prefabricated houses, I promise that nobody will miss you if you decide to stay your ass in Edmond. There will still be enough of us who live in the surrounding areas to make sure that all of those businesses are successful.
Otherwise, remember that you can travel by the bus that runs all day up and down 16th street, or drop a few bucks on a ride from Uber and then not have to worry about drinking and driving. As soon as you complain about needing to walk five minutes from your parking spot to the door of a restaurant, we all know that you voted for Chili’s in the Gazette’s ‘Best of OKC.’