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Next for the Oklahoma River: Looking Ahead to Wheeler

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The opening of RiverSport Rapids, and the start of introducing the various attractions along the Oklahoma River as RiverSport Adventures, are getting off to a good start. Excitement, meanwhile, is building over another anticipated  hot spot along the south shore of the river at Western Avenue.

The Wheeler development at the former Downtown Airpark has been years in the making. The plan was transformed as Blair Humphreys took the lead as his brother, Grant Humphreys, moved to Eufaula and successfully launched Carlton Landing - now a model new urbanist town with dozens of homes along with a restaurant, school, church and store. 

Blair, himself one of the city's most respected urban design thought leaders, is attempting something with similar ambitions at the airpark. Excitement is building as construction is wrapping up on the Ferris Wheel bought by Grant several years ago via eBay. The ride, and a food truck and entertainment plaza with some great public art is set to open this summer.

The vision: 

The excitement:

The Ferris Wheel is set to be followed by construction of the first housing. Humphreys cleared a significant step last month when zoning for the development passed the River Design Committee and the Oklahoma City Planning Commission.

The terminal building is the strongest surviving tie to the airpark, which was built and opened in 1947 by a group of city power brokers led by Dean A. McGee. The terminal, with a hint of Art Deco-style design, also was home to a cafe that operated from 1954 until the airpark went bankrupt and was sold in a 2005 auction to the Humphreys family.

Blair Humphreys said that he is looking at renovating the terminal building into a community hub (with more details to be revealed at a later time) and building a first phase of housing that will sell at an average price of $250,000 to $350,000. The zoning also includes plans for what Humphreys calls “tiny homes” that might attract young couples and families just starting out.

Plans call for phase one, starting later this year, is set to include a village hub for what will turn into a full scale district. The work will include approximately 50 single family homes, including both urban houses and multistory town homes, over 100 apartments, a three-story office building and the restored terminal building.

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Steve Lackmeyer

Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's... Read more ›

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