The Norman Transcript

August 27, 2013

Dialogue is about improving community

By Nick Hathaway
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — As a resident of Norman for nearly 20 years, an OU employee who lives, works and volunteers in the Norman community and as a member of the Norman Transportation Master Plan Committee, I am very interested in the future of Lindsey Street.

The University of Oklahoma and the city of Norman share a strong partnership with common goals. The OU community is woven into the fabric of the Norman community. As OU’s president recently observed, it is impossible to identify where the university ends and the city begins.

No one at the university, including President Boren, wants this Lindsey Street project to incur any unnecessary delays or increases in cost.

Further, President Boren has not tried to dictate a path forward on Lindsey Street. His foremost interest has been to make sure council members have all of the facts and alternatives available to it before making a decision.

Once concrete is poured, it will be too late to make major changes. Norman has one chance to build a beautiful boulevard as a gateway into the city and the university. Lindsey Street should make a statement to everyone that Norman is a special place.

The major issue is whether we want Lindsey Street to be a beautiful boulevard or an arterial road more like a highway carrying twice as many cars as it does today.

Everyone should be concerned if Lindsey Street becomes a major artery with 40,000 cars every day, which turns into a two-lane street at Berry Road through the neighborhood and the campus between Berry Road and Jenkins.

Will there be pressure in the future to continue the arterial road like a highway through that area, destroying the beautiful neighborhood with its magnificent trees and cutting the university campus in half in an unsightly and unsafe way?

I think that the best route is to design Lindsey Street to carry a small increase in traffic and to carry the current traffic in a more efficient way.

A boulevard could be beautiful. The city and the university could then cooperate to slightly expand and improve the shoulders of the existing two-lane street through the campus and the neighborhood so people could walk and cycle from the campus and the neighborhood to the new sidewalks and bike paths on Lindsey Street west of Berry Road.

The university’s standing in the Norman community is well established. The university is Norman’s largest employer and the state’s second largest employer. Economists have found that university activities contribute nearly $800 million annually to the Norman economy.

The university provides at no cost to Norman one of the most beautiful central parks in any community anywhere. OU is the home of two of the state’s most important and highly attended museums, including the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art that offers free admission as a result of support from the athletics department.

Our research campus continues to flourish, bringing new jobs to our community. Our football stadium has been expanded to bring more people to Norman who contribute to the local economy. Other athletic and arts events also help.

It is well known that President Boren has worked hard to raise private funds from outside Norman to provide these facilities and activities that benefit our community.

This dialogue we are having regarding the future of Lindsey Street is not a symbol of division. Rather, I think it has been the embodiment of the strong, healthy, collaborative spirit that exists between the university and the city. We are not divided.

I hope we are united in a common spirit to make sure that we take this opportunity to consider all of the facts and enhance Lindsey Street as a gateway to our special community. We all want it to be as beautiful as possible. We want its design to say to the world that Norman is a special place.

The university and the city have a rich tradition of cooperative activity. In fact, the city and university have partnered on many projects relating to the beauty and attractiveness of our community.

For instance, while the city agreed to plant and maintain trees on the south side of Robinson Street, the university has planted and maintained the trees along the north sides of the street.

As we look to our future, I wonder if there is an opportunity for the university and city to partner in a program modeled after Tulsa’s Up With Trees Program to create an endowment for the care and maintenance of trees and green spaces in all of Norman and along Lindsey Street.

Norman is our home. We all care about it. This dialogue is about nothing more than making our community the best it can be. We all want that. No one, including the leaders of the university, should be criticized for caring about our future.

Nick Hathaway is a resident of Norman.