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Planning History

City planning for Oklahoma City started within the first months of the city's life.

Photo shows jog in street at McKinley and Sheridan, caused by platting inconsistencies in the 1890's.

The city's design emerged from the platting of two townsites, one by the Seminole Land Company and the other by the Oklahoma Town Company. The disparity between the platting work of the two companies can still be observed in the offsets of the north and south streets where they intersect with Sheridan Avenue.

Dunn and Kessler Plans

In 1909, following an extensive parks acquisition program, W. H. Dunn, Superintendent of Parks in Kansas City, developed the first Parks Plan for Oklahoma City. In January of 1920, George E. Kessler was named as a consultant to complete the first comprehensive plan for the city. Mr. Kessler died in 1923 before he could complete the plan; however, he did complete major elements of the plan which provided the basis for later planning efforts. In April of 1920, the Oklahoma City Planning Commission was appointed. In 1923, the state planning enabling legislation was enacted and the Planning Commission reorganized along with a regional commission. Based on Mr. Kessler's studies and plans, a zoning ordinance was prepared.

The City Plan, 1930

Hare and Hare, consultants from Kansas City, were retained in l928 to complete the Kessler Plan and to write a final report containing historical data, socio-demographic data, a street plan, a civic center plan, a parks plan, a zoning ordinance and subdivision regulations. Hare and Hare's report was submitted to the City Planning Commission on December 24, 1930.

Civic Center drawing, circa 1930

This document, The City Plan for Oklahoma City, was the first comprehensive plan for the city. Oklahoma City's current Civic Center is largely based on the Hare Plan.

Likewise, implementation of the Grand Boulevard Plan developed by W. H. Dunn (1909) was called for by the 1930 Plan. Much of the right-of-way for the boulevard was acquired, and significant portions were constructed; however, it remained for the Interstate Highway system to fully implement the idea of a loop.

The Comprehensive City Plan, 1949

In July of 1944, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, and the Oklahoma City Board of Education jointly engaged Harland Bartholomew and Associates to prepare a new master plan as the comprehensive guide for the "growth of Oklahoma City and its environs for the next twenty-five years." The report was submitted in June of 1947. However, new state enabling legislation had been enacted in May of 1947 and the "Bartholomew Plan" was not adopted as submitted.

An updated version of the Bartholomew Plan, titled The Comprehensive City Plan: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was adopted in July of 1949. The major accomplishments of the plan were contained in the studies completed in the two year interim period between the submittal of the report and the plan's adoption. These included a major streets plan, a new zoning ordinance, master plans for Will Rogers Field and Tulakes Airport (now Wiley Post Airport), parks plan, and a schools plan.

OKC Plan, 1977

In 1975, following a period of substantial economic, population and urban growth, the City was faced with the need to respond to massive geographic growth and to address growing problems in the inner city. This was compounded by declining fiscal resources and competitive demands for municipal services and programs.

In response to these conditions, Oklahoma City initiated a major comprehensive planning effort. This planning project included an extensive citizen participation program. Service availability guidelines were established and, perhaps for the first time, a community consensus was developed regarding goals, policies, and programs to guide growth.

The 1977 Plan set forth a preservation policy as its fundamental principle. This policy had two basic components. First, preserving and revitalizing existing neighborhoods and businesses were to be primary concerns when considering any public actions such as capital improvements programming and regulation of private development proposals. Second, suburban growth patterns were to be efficient in regard to fiscal impacts, energy conservation, and the natural and urban environment.

The 1977 Plan recognized that growth would inevitably occur and should be supported but called for development to occur in ways which would conform to the preservation focus of the plan. Efficient growth patterns were viewed as necessary to conserve the City's fiscal resources so that the quality and level of community services could be increased and funds could be made available to pursue preservation programs and projects.