About five years ago the Mrs. and I began to consider a potential move to downtown Tulsa. Like many others nearing retirement age we were in the preliminary stages of trying to figure out the best housing options for our empty nester way of life.
For over 40 years we had lived in three midtown neighborhoods including Maple Ridge, Lewiston Gardens and most recently in Florence Park. We pursued our careers, and raised our children who attended Catholic Schools. We took pride in our lawn and landscaping and very much enjoyed the midtown Tulsa lifestyle, with its close proximity to many of Tulsa’s most popular cultural and recreational destinations.
As the years passed after our kids were grown and gone, we continued as if nothing had changed. We kept to our routines without really ever questioning them. We put down grass seed and fertilizer in the fall, pre-emergent and weed killer in the spring. Maintaining a beautiful yard and garden was important to us and we were devoted to that work.
It was not until we had the good fortune to experience a couple of European vacations that we really began to think about living an urban lifestyle. Visiting some of the great cities and villages of Italy, Switzerland and England, with their enchanting pedestrian experiences and their reliable and efficient transit systems opened our eyes to a whole new way of life and living.
For whatever reason, we did not immediately act upon our impulse to move downtown. For one thing, there were very limited ownership options five years ago which is unfortunately still the case. And, we remained pretty attached to our single family home that had only recently undergone some extensive and expensive renovations which we wanted to enjoy. In short, we were dealing with a lot of mixed emotions which probably kept us from taking that first bold step.
It wasn’t until mowing the yard in the brutal heat of August in the summer of 2010 that I finally began to concede that it was no fun anymore. We sat down and had a heart to heart talk and decided to move forward with our plan. Even still, it was almost two years later when the moving day finally arrived.
It wasn’t just the urban lifestyle that motivated us. We wanted to downsize and cut our housing and utility expenses and spend the savings on travel. The goal was to capture the equity in our single family home and to pay cash for a new, smaller home or condo. As it turned out, it took longer than we hoped to sell our house and we ended up taking less than our asking price. However, we realized our dream and moved into our new digs on June 29th of this year.
Our new home is on the 19th floor of the Central Park Condominiums west of Denver on 7th Street. Facing downtown we have an absolutely incredible view of Tulsa’s beautiful skyline. While we are not right in the middle of the central business district, we are inside the IDL and within easy walking distance of most downtown attractions.
It has only been a little over three months but I can honestly say that our move has been a truly life changing experience. Every day we say to each other ‘I love my house, and or I love our new lifestyle.’ We are still pinching ourselves to make sure it is actually real and not just a dream anymore.
Living downtown is exciting and has brought a new sense of purpose to our life. My wife recently said she feels we are more on the same page in our relationship than we have ever been. We wake up in the morning and look out over our city and feel invigorated by the energy and vitality that begins every business day as downtown Tulsa begins to flex its muscles. And each evening before bedtime we sit out on our balcony or look out the window as a restful calm settles over the heart of our city and region.
We walk to church on Sunday, and then walk to a restaurant for brunch. Sometimes in the evening we walk down to Mod’s for some gelato. We have literally dozens of restaurant choices to choose from and we are only a few minutes from the BOK Center, Convention Center and a handful of pocket parks. There is nightlife and there is activity everywhere. We feel alive, we feel rejuvenated and we feel energized.
Cities are living breathing organisms and downtowns represent their pulse and their heartbeat. A healthy, vibrant downtown says a lot about a city’s self-image, about where it’s been and where it’s headed. For decades Tulsans looked at our downtown as nothing more than a business and employment center. It was absolutely dead after hours and on weekends. By configuring a series of one way streets our planners only concern seemed to be how quickly we could get thousands of people into the city at 8am and out of the city at 5pm.
Things have changed, big time. The BOK Center and ONEOK Field have provided after hours traffic downtown that has inspired an enormous amount of private investment. Local entrepreneurs and business people are scrambling to meet the demand for housing, nightlife, retail and services. There is new life and new animation in downtown Tulsa. It’s refreshing, it’s stimulating, and it’s real.
Let’s be honest, there is still a lot of work left to be done to make downtown Tulsa all that it can be. A lot of our infrastructure including streets and sidewalks are in a sad state of disrepair. And, our streets need to be redesigned and restriped to accommodate a more dignified pedestrian experience with better provisions for cyclists and transit users. The one way signs need to come down for improved connectivity and to attract needed retailers. We are confident these improvements will come in time.
The bottom line is this. Moving and living downtown has exceeded our every expectation. We feel younger, healthier and more connected to our community. We believe in downtown Tulsa and invite YOU to check it out!
Published in Urban Tulsa Weekly October 17, 2012