You may have seen several groups of unfamiliar faces wandering up and down Waurika’s Main Street over the course of 3 days last week and wondered what they were up to.
No, they weren’t from the tax office looking to raise your bill. They weren’t investors looking to buy Main Street. But they definitely DID come to invest in Waurika!
Staff members of the University of Oklahoma’s Institute for Quality Communities and design students from the Gibbs College of Architecture brought their considerable observation, design and analysis talents to downtown to engage with our community as a unique part of our ongoing Waurika rejuvenation efforts. And engage they did!
The visits began last Tuesday as 7 team members arrived at the Main St. office of Brickstreet South, Jacob Eck’s website and graphic design studio. After brief introductions, the group of 3 IQC staff members, 4 design students and Chamber board members Jacob Eck and Lauren Nitschke launched out on a 75 minute walking tour of Main Street that included our new Farmers Market space, The Lawn, the County Courthouse and Sorosis Park. Our visitors were particularly intrigued by our local ranch-sponsored benches, the large metalwork cattle mural on the north face of Sorosis Park and by our art deco inspired, and largely original, 1931 Courthouse. Interestingly, architect Ron Frantz noted that one of the architects listed on the cornerstone was also involved in the design of the Oklahoma State Capitol building!
Following a lunch meeting at the Circle D Café where several community stake-holders gathered to share their thoughts about various downtown planning subjects, the OU group returned to Jacob’s office to begin compiling comments and observations into meaningful topics for the evening’s public workshop at City Hall.
The workshop did not disappoint! Over a dozen residents convened Tuesday evening for a lively session filled with opportunities to learn more about our downtown from “fresh eyes”, and to participate in several interactive work areas where topics included everything from fleshing out information about our calendar of community events, to voicing opinions about favorite places to enjoy downtown, to what we see as real needs on Main Street and beyond. The evening concluded with reports from several attendees who had been led on a quick tour of our outdoor downtown gathering places during the meeting time. There was so much to be shared, it was challenging to bring our conversations to a close for the night!
Wednesday morning, the IQC group huddled again in the Brickstreet South office, working feverishly on their lunchtime presentation at Doc’s Place to another group of stakeholders. They presented relevant statistics such as daily traffic counts on Highways 70 and 81 (over 3000 vehicles each!) and how many residents live and work in Waurika versus those who live here and work elsewhere and vice versa. Maps and overlays were shared, as well as numerous photos, sketches and interesting observations about our beautiful town. Attendees were informed of the next steps the IQC study group will be taking toward the goal of presenting their findings and recommendations at a public meeting in early 2019.
Round 2 of IQC’s Waurika study took place on Saturday morning as 28 Environmental Design and City Planning students plus 2 of the same IQC staffers arrived on Main Street to undertake a unique historic building architectural survey. It began with the large contingent touring 4 blocks of Main Street with Jacob Eck and Lauren Nitschke providing historical context and other information about many of the buildings. Several downtown building owners were so generous to allow the team access inside their properties and the group was delighted by what they found: high ceilings with other design features that allowed for natural air flow, original, stained wood trim, high light-emitting transom windows on storefronts that had long since been covered over with huge awning structures, gorgeous wood floors and cavernous spaces just waiting for new uses.
The group was also treated to the Brickstreet Classic Car Show taking place on the north end of Main, along with the accompanying burger lunch and Volunteer Fire Departments’ BBQ Cook-Off.
The architectural survey work took place after lunch with the team breaking into small groups targeting the various structures. The results of their survey
work and extensive historical research will also be presented early next year and will provide the type of documentation necessary if Waurika leaders and property owners decide to pursue state and national historic designation opportunities.
Another benefit of IQC’s partnership with Waurika is their ability to help us locate and match grant possibilities to our unique architectural and city planning situations. We look forward with great anticipation and excitement to their upcoming presentation next year and are very grateful for the encouragement and help they are providing our community.
Waurikans can be very proud of the efforts undertaken over previous months in our town to make such a positive impression on this large group of design- and historically-savvy individuals. It was heard quite a few times over the past week the enthusiastic exclamations of “I want to live here!” and “This is such a cool town!”. As the final day wrapped up, doctoral candidate Petya Stefanoff lavished praise on Waurika’s progress so far on creating a beautiful city and our ability to work together so well toward the greater goal of “community”. She further encouraged us by exclaiming, “Keep up the good work, Waurika!”
And with our amazing community of creative, energetic and involved residents, we’ll do just that!