Development plans for the Arkansas River

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Reported by: Ian Silver
Updated: 12/12/2013 5:34 pm Published: 12/12/2013 5:03 pm

Developing along the Arkansas River has been a top priority for the city of Tulsa for years, but one after another, proposals to actually do it have failed.

On Thursday, the city launched a new effort. The city wants both shores of the river growing with recreational and business opportunities.

There are three reasons they think this effort will be different: time, development already happening and making it a group effort.

"At least they're talking about it again," said Tom Dittus of the Blue Rose Café.

Dittus is the managing partner of the Blue Rose Café at 19th and Riverside, and wishes he had some neighbors.

"Hopefully people will see what we've done down here. We would really welcome some company down here and like to see some more development," he said.

City Councilor GT Bynum said Blue Rose isn't the only sign of private investment.

"There are hundreds of millions of dollars being invested along the Arkansas River right now," said Bynum.

A lot of that money is going to the new Margaritaville hotel the Creek Nation is building at the River Spirit Casino.

And the park the George Kaiser Family Foundation is building.

"Gathering Place deal is something we're really, really looking forward to," said Dittus.

The new task force will look at how to attract more development.

Some previous suggestions include repairing and even adding dams to keep water in the river, adding parking along Riverside, making Riverside easier to drive and creating more public-private partnerships on land development.

"It's not gonna be a river walk like in San Antonio. There'll be different types of developments in different areas, and part of it will be left natural like it is now," said Vic Vreeland, consultant for the Muscogee Creek Nation.

Veeland thinks now is the time to make it all happen.

"There's a small percentage of people that don't want to see anything done on the river. But for the most part, I think 85, 90 percent of the people want to see the river developed. The naysayer people are just the ones that they don't want to agree on how it's paid for," said Vreeland.

Paying for it is still a big question mark, but that's why city leaders said this new task force will take input from all areas of the community and region.

"I'm not for sure. Maybe we need to hear some of those people's ideas," said Vreeland.

But with the Gathering Place and Margaritaville coming soon, now is the time to keep the momentum going.

"It shows you, really, the opportunity that lies out there if we're willing to invest in the community and build these dams," said Bynum.

"It would just add to the tourism attraction of Tulsa, which I think would help any and all neighborhoods," said Dittus.

The task force is expected to include representatives from all council districts, business leaders and possible investors, the Riverparks Authority and neighboring communities like Jenks, Sand Springs and Bixby.

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