By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Norman will break out of the mold that has controlled the past to redesign one of the oldest districts in the city.
For nearly a century, most U.S. cities have used word-based zoning — definitions and regulations that outlined the rules land use projects must follow. Such zoning describes the use allowed on a property from commercial to residential to industrial and regulates building height and density.
Form-based code is a different zoning style. Local developer Richard McKown described it as “picture-driven zoning that works.” Now, Norman, in partnership with the University of Oklahoma, will look a the possibility of a form-based code for a central portion of the community.
McKown said the outcome may not end up being form-based — rather it may be something similar that fits well with Oklahoma’s legal structure — but the study currently under way will allow Norman to think outside the Euclidean zoning box as the city creates a vision for its center city.
The area under study is between Campus Corner and downtown. It is bounded on the north by Gray Street, with railroad tracks forming the east boundary, Boyd on the south and Park Avenue and Flood Avenue on the west.
The Center City Vision steering committee met for the first time Wednesday and selected a sub-consultant to work on Norman’s revitalization project. Under consideration were three firms with extensive experience in form-based codes: Duany Plater-Zyberk, Opticos with Ferrell Madden and Dover Kohl & Partners.
“We’ve got a team of rock stars, but we think Ferrell Madden is like the Kevin Durant,” said McKown, who serves as committee co-chair with Mayor Cindy Rosenthal.
The committee analyzed the firms based on experience with form-based code, experience with the National Charrette Institute’s process, Oklahoma project experience and university town experience.
Committee member Cynthia Rogers said Opticos talked about “the missing middle,” which is the middle ground that can please Norman residents as well as developers who want to bring revitalization projects to Norman’s core area.
Opticos with Ferrell Madden was selected unanimously and will be recommended to the Norman City Council.
“There’s a lot of different ways we can create this revitalization that can be a talent magnet,” McKown said, “so we can keep our great graduates.”
McKown said Norman has great homes for families but doesn’t serve an emerging demographic of people who are not looking for a typical single-family home with a big yard.
“We don’t have any place that enterprising entrepreneurial thinkers can land,” he said.
The vision project will look at various densities but is not a high-density project. The Center City Vision will kick off with interviews of stakeholders, residents and other interested persons.
Council member Stephen Tyler Holman said he wants to talk to a friend who is a police officer who works the Campus Corner beat and another friend who has worked for a long time in the area.
“Let’s also talk to the type of people we want to attract to the area,” Rogers said.
Committee member Jonathan Fowler said he has a list of people who were in core Norman but moved away for various reasons, and he plans to reach out to them.
Committee members are co-chairs McKown and Rosenthal, Council members Greg Jungman, Stephen Holman and Chad Williams, Jim Adair, Rebecca Bean, Susan Connors, Fowler, Judy Hatfield, Father Dwight Helt, Becky Patten, Daniel Pullin, Rogers, Barrett Williamson and Heather Woods O’Connell.
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