One of Tulsa’s unique attractions is being eyed for a facelift.
The Downtown Coordinating Council on Thursday presented to the Tulsa Development Authority its vision for $2.35 million in improvements to the Center of the Universe and Boston Avenue pedestrian bridge and plaza.
At a virtual meeting, the TDA approved of $191,750 in Technology TIF (tax increment financing) No. 3 unobligated funds to support design and construction.
Thousands of people annually experience the Center of the Universe’s echo-chamber acoustics, artwork and lighting installation.
“Acknowledging that we have people utilizing that pedestrian bridge and that public space multiple times per day ... we really feel that downtown is deserving and our visitors and residents and office workers are deserving of a space that is used as frequently as it is,” DCC Executive Director Brian Kurtz said.
Kurtz spoke to the TDA by Zoom on Thursday, noting that the proposal remains conceptual. The structure targeted for improvements is owned by the city of Tulsa, and the DCC, as the city’s downtown management organization, will serve as project manager and lead for fundraising and renovation, documents submitted for the meeting show.
A $1 million gift from an unnamed partner has been committed to the project, with remaining funds being sought from sources that include the city, Tulsa County, and corporate and philanthropic partners.
Pointing out that the TIF’s contribution represents 8.2% of the project’s cost, TDA staffer Casey Stowe said it “seems like an excellent way to leverage TIF funds.”
In disrepair and last upgraded in the early 1980s, the bridge and plaza serve as a passageway over the BNSF Railway for hundreds of Tulsans daily.
The renovation project, of which plans are being established, will include new sidewalks, paving, enhanced structural components, renewed planter beds, new and enhanced trees, landscaping and irrigation systems, new lighting and public art.
“The vision that is in place for this is contemplating how to link the north and south together in a way that gives honor to the history there,” TDA Chair Nancy Roberts said.
Throwback Tulsa gallery: Experts visit Center of the Universe to explain its acoustic magic