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This MAPS will look different

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"Transformative" has taken on new meaning with planning for MAPS 4.

Where transformative, in the quarter-century since Metropolitan Area Projects was conceived, has meant building ballparks and libraries, convention centers and high schools, to revive a broken city, a significant part of MAPS 4 could be about rebuilding broken lives.

"I anticipate MAPS 4 will be totally different than what we see today," Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell said in February.

MAPS 4 comes around amid increasingly visible signs of the effects of poverty, mental illness, homelessness and domestic violence.

As gauged by the annual "point-in-time" count of the homeless, the number living outdoors, or unsheltered, increased 47 percent in 2018.

After the 2019 count in late January, advocates said there were signs the number of individuals living on city streets was continuing to grow.

Mayor David Holt suggested in his State of the City speech on Jan. 17 that MAPS 4 could include an endowment to fund ongoing costs for addressing such social ills.

In February, millennials who embraced that idea won election to open city council seats from the city's two most densely urbanized wards.

Caring for those left behind by the city's renaissance is "the call of my generation," Ward 2 Councilman-elect James Cooper said during the campaign.

"That's why the next MAPS must have one project that's called 'human needs,' " he said.

He imagined capturing proceeds from an endowment "to staff whatever facilities we build."

"Let's build it," Cooper said, "and then let's be responsible stewards by putting people to work, helping other people to be whole again."

The mayor introduced planning for MAPS 4 in October with a video, asking residents to "Dream Big" and submit their ideas online at ideas4maps.com.

Well over a thousand ideas have been submitted.

In his speech, Holt highlighted about two dozen ideas while advising his audience "the fact I am uttering them out loud and even perhaps in a favorable light is not an endorsement of any particular one."

Holt said some priorities he was hearing are "addressed by people and programs, and those things cost money beyond the life of a temporary tax."

Facilities to shelter the homeless, treat the mentally ill and house the Palomar Family Justice Center made the mayor's list.

So did centers for schoolchildren, for after-school and summer arts and sports enrichment programs.

Other priorities

More traditionally, from the MAPS perspective, Holt named upgrades to Chesapeake Energy Arena and the Oklahoma City Thunder's practice gym as priorities, noting the NBA team's lease ends in five years.

The arena, he said, is a community gathering place "and really drives so much about how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us."

A soccer stadium and horse-show arena placed near the top among big-ticket items, and backers of those ideas have designs waiting in the wings.

Playgrounds, regional parks, regional soccer and basketball facilities, and an aquatics center are ideas geared toward youth.

Building on MAPS 3, more senior health and wellness centers, trails and sidewalks focus on neighborhoods.

Transit bridges a gap between neighborhood revitalization and economic development, with ideas such as increasing the bus fleet, installing more bus shelters and extending the streetcar to near-northeast Oklahoma City, where an Innovation District fostering entrepreneurship is envisioned.

Gaps in the public education system could be filled by performing arts centers, a teacher village, an endowment to sustain arts education, and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) centers.

The mayor's list included an aerospace job training center, a new animal shelter and an aquarium run by the Oklahoma City Zoo.

"I think it's important to say we can't do it all in MAPS 4," Holt said in his speech. "But we can do some of it. In fact, we could do a lot of it."

MAPS is funded by a 1-cent sales tax first approved by voters in 1993. Projects open debt-free.

MAPS 4 planning will continue throughout 2019, with the city council aiming for a consensus and voters likely being asked in December to extend the tax.

William Crum

OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman. Read more ›

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