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Gunboat District: the story behind the rebirthed downtown Tulsa neighborhood

Posted at 3:44 PM, Apr 07, 2023

TULSA, Okla. — Across the street from downtown Tulsa’s Home Depot (along 11th and Elgin) is a little neighborhood called the Gunboat District.

It’s named Gunboat for the unique shape when viewed on a map.

While it’s been around for decades, Thomas Carlson of Carlson Development Group bought several properties and started sprucing up the area—beginning with some simple trash pickup.

“When you see something on the ground and you think, ‘I wonder who’s going to pick that up?’ Then, you fold down your visor, look in the mirror and go, ‘he’s here!’”

With a plan to carefully curate tenants, now the neighborhood has over a dozen homes, more than 60 apartments and 40 businesses.

Although he won’t call himself the unofficial mayor of sorts, one of his tenants, Annie Brady, would agree.

“Not everybody can see the vision, when they see a neighborhood that’s raw and see something special, but he’s been able to do that,” said Brady.

Brady rents a space for her shop, Magpie, and event planning business.

“He brought me over here and I tried to pretend this isn’t the most magical little spot,” she joked.

Carlson also partnered with the City of Tulsa to convert a grassy area into a dog park.

“Now it’s gone from a park no one ever used to seeing three to four people per hour,” said Carlson.

Next door to the dog park is the newest tenant, Salt and Lime Social. It’s a new restaurant bringing Tex-Mex, cocktails and patio space. There is some indoor seating as well.

“Our first concept was at Mother Road on Route 66 so we absolutely love the idea of keeping our roots on Route 66,” said Spencer Snow, co-owner.

Other tenants include Leadership Tulsa, FC Tulsa and Updog Yoga, which includes an outdoor yoga deck.

“There’s a lot of people who live and work in the neighborhood and as we worked with everyone to make it better people started to show up,” said Carlson. “It’s been a fun journey.”

A barber shop is scheduled to open this summer. Carlson is also working with the Route 66 Commission to get a neon sign installed in front of the neighborhood.

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