MOORE — The first complete picture of what city officials and residents want for Old Town came into view last week.
The fourth of five meetings for Old Town revitalization was held at The Station on the night of Dec. 6. Though nothing concrete came out of that meeting, the most visible image of Old Town’s potential future came in the form of a new zoning map designed to fix the area’s problems.
“How can we change zoning in Old Town to encourage doing the right thing in a suburban environment?” A.J. Kirkpatrick, from ADG P.C. who has been working as a consultant on the initiative, said.
The zoning changes would bring brand new classifications for housing, commercial and mixed use areas. Kirkpatrick said based on surveys of what residents and property owners preferred, and where in Old Town they were most needed, showed where the lines for retail and residential properties should be.
“I think people really want to build up the Main and Broadway area,” Kirkpatrick said.
Town Center would be the main retail area, with residential properties confined to the upper stories of buildings. A setback of 0-5 feet would have these buildings closer to the sidewalk with on-street parking available where zoned.
Residential mixed-use would serve as a “buffer” between commercial and heavier residential areas, Kirkpatrick said. It could still include retail shops, and the larger setback, with a maximum of 10 feet, would allow for enhanced patio space for, say, outdoor dining.
Medium-density residential would allow small apartment complexes, with a 15-unit maximum (though Kirkpatrick said the limit is debatable). Single-family dwellings in the form of duplexes, town-homes or condos would be allowed in this zone, with a maximum of 2-3 stories.
Finally, a single-family residential area would be a strict no-commercial zone. Roofs would be pitched or gable-styled, not flat like in other zones, and these properties would be allowed to have a smaller dwelling in the back or above the garage, also known as “granny flats.”
The purpose of having these new types of zones in Old Town would be to bring the kind of activity necessary to create what current residents and property owners want.
“People want urban amenities,” Kirkpatrick said. “You need to figure out how to increase the amount of people walking in the neighborhood to get these amenities in Old Town.”
Kirkpatrick explained that the reason Old Town looks the way it does — with low density compared to other downtowns, large setbacks and residential units built on commercially zoned property — has to do with planning changes over time. After World War II, he explained, people wanted single-family homes and large apartment buildings.
In the 1950s, the City of Moore passed zoning that would prevent urban sprawl coming south from a growing Oklahoma City. The only problem is they implemented it across the entire city, without accounting for what people might want in Moore’s future downtown.
“Your zoning makes it impossible to build things the way we used to,” Kirkpatrick said.
Another zone would be reserved for park space, and that’s something already coming to Old Town in the near future. The creation of Old Town Park on Main Street will already change the face of downtown, Community Development Director Elizabeth Weitman said.
“The development of Old Town Park is going to be, in my opinion, a game-changer for downtown,” she said.
Additional plans to turn Old Town into a central, core area for Moore include improving roads to be more friendly to pedestrian and bicycle traffic, and that includes slowing down vehicle traffic. In a series of meetings, Weitman said residents identified they wanted Old Town to be walkable and well-connected to surrounding areas.
They also want to maintain a “small-town feel” and promote Moore’s history.
Changes are still a long way off, though, and that comes down to one big issue: money. No funding source has been identified to implement Old Town changes, and Weitman said the city is not considering anything like a tax increment finance zone (TIF) or any tax strictly for Old Town.
There is the possibility the existing funds from a street-repair sales tax could be used on some Old Town improvements, but this money is used all over Moore so the amount available will be limited.