Kaiser Foundation moves to next phase of planning for Riverside gathering place

TULSA - The George Kaiser Family Foundation is entering the next phase of planning for a new gathering space near Riverside.

The foundation has plans to break ground on a new park, which will sit on the Blair property between 26th and 29th and Riverside Drive as well as the Sundance and Legacy apartment properties south of 31st and Riverside in early 2014.

All of the properties are presently owned by the foundation.

The foundation is asking for public input on the project. Public meetings took place in March.  A second round of meetings are scheduled for this week at the TCC Center for Creativity at 918 South Boston Ave. 

The first meeting was held on Wednesday night. The second meeting will be held on Thursday night. It begins at 6 p.m.

"This next round of meetings is a continuation of the public input process," said Jeff Stava, project manager for A Gathering Place for Tulsa. "We received tremendous feedback during the first round of meetings and hope to have more of the same as we reveal some initial ideas."

Final public meetings are anticipated for the fall.

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates ( MVVA), a landscape architecture firm based in Brooklyn, NY, has been chosen to design the new gathering place. MVVA previously designed the Hudson River Park in New York and Mill Race Park in Columbus, Ind.

Early design concepts reflecting previously gathered public input will be unveiled at the meetings.

"From the input and ideas we received from the community through emails, website comments and the public meetings, we were able to create an early concept that we feel reflects the desires of Tulsa residents," said Van Valkenburg, MVVA principal. "We're excited to present these early ideas to the community and are eager to hear their thoughts."

The images above shows the early concept for a venue, which would allow people to gather and have low-key events, and a green space area, which shows much of the existing green space would be retained and blended with other landscape elements, plus access to the river.

"The preliminary renderings we show at the meetings are not final," said Stava. "We're going to listen to what the community thinks of these early concepts and use that input to continue crafting what ultimately will be the final design. "

Tulsa resident Mike Kneafsey was impressed by the designs he saw on Wednesday.

"I like what I've seen as far as a nice earth bridge over Riverside because that was one of the things that I was wondering about, is how you get access from the park to the new grounds," said Kneafsey. "It looks great so far. I think a lot of thought has gone into it."

Millie York, who lives near the development, wasn't pleased about plans to place the new park's vehicle entrance right next to her back yard.

"We didn't buy the property to have a big brick wall put up or to have our view blocked," said York. "I'm not happy with that."

The thus far unnamed project is expected to cost between $100 to $150 million. Final site plans are expected to be complete in the fall.

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