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An Urban Renaissance
Live on the Plaza, held every second Friday of the month, continues to attract larger crowds as it gains momentum. Both child and pet friendly, the event offers locals and visitors an affordable way to become better acquainted with Oklahoma arts culture.
Photo by LACEY ELAINE DILLARD
The Plaza District in Oklahoma City has risen from the detritus of urban blight, thanks to a contingent of young entrepreneurs and a stately old venue.
By MEGAN ROSSMAN
A decade ago, the Plaza District’s slogan might have been, “Don’t come here after dark.” You’d never know it tonight. The 1700 block of Northwest Sixteenth Street in Oklahoma City is crawling with fun seekers at Live on the Plaza, a block party the second Friday of every month that promotes the area’s thirty-two businesses.
Despite the erupting thunderstorm in the distance, the crowd is several hundred people thick. Cars in search of parking circle adjoining neighborhoods, skirting the heavy foot traffic that flows to and from the main drag. Scattered musicians strum guitars while the exclamations of friends and neighbors provide a chorus. Although the crowd is dense, a relaxed, friendly vibe rules the night. This stretch of road, once a blight on Oklahoma City, is now one of its most vibrant and creative business communities.
“It’s one of those twenty-year overnight success stories,” says Susan Hogan.
The director of the Plaza District Association from 2003 to 2008 and now an urban redevelopment specialist for Oklahoma City’s planning department, Hogan was one of the district’s original champions. A resident of the adjacent Gatewood neighborhood, she helped found the association in 1996, weeding and picking up trash with a few others from Gatewood and the Classen-Ten-Penn neighborhood, which forms the Plaza’s southern border.
During the early years, the group’s main objective was to generate interest in the commercial properties along Sixteenth. It was no easy task. The buildings, boarded up and in grievous disrepair, tended to appeal most to weeds, vandals, and hobos.
“When legitimate activity abandons a place, the illegitimate moves in,” says Hogan. “It wasn’t safe at night. It was important for people to believe it could be changed, to believe it could be cleaned up, and not to give up.”
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Get There: The Plaza District is between Blackwelder and Indiana Avenues on Northwest Sixteenth Street in Oklahoma City. Live on the Plaza is at 7 p.m. on November 11 and December 9. (405) 367-9403 or plazadistrict.org.