City Council Approves New Plan to Transform New Orleans Square

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The City Council unanimously approved a new Overlay District that reimagines New Orleans Square at the meeting on Feb. 15. 

This new urban design framework comes after more than two years of consultations and study with area property owners, two consulting firms, City staff, and a seven-person New Orleans Square Advisory Committee. The new zoning document will guide the area’s future growth surrounding the intersection of West New Orleans Street and South Elm Place. 

Its goal is to encourage redevelopment in and around the existing shopping centers in the area and encourage growth in underdeveloped and underutilized land. It is also intended to foster new residential and mixed-use development. 

Urban planners ADG and Code Studio each served as consultants on the project. The Director of Urban Planning for ADG, A.J. Kirkpatrick spoke to the Council about the project’s goals with the new zoning, which include:

Improving owners’ ability to redevelop

Increase opportunity for non-auto trips to and within the district

Broaden housing options for current and future residents

Establish a framework through zoning to guide future development

Kirkpatrick said the consultants and the committee had met individually with each of the business owners in the area to discuss their goals, the history of ownership, and what they hoped for going forward. 

He said they learned the property owners were seeing very little interest in the big box spaces on those four corners. Several businesses were doing smaller footprint retail businesses within those spaces. And some were thinking about more significant developments. 

“And that gave us confidence it was time to think about lane use in some of these spaces,” Kirkpatrick said. “One of the owners said, ‘You must increase surrounding residential density to make these retail spaces more valuable.”

These owners realized that the tie to retail had moved to other areas of Broken Arrow and that it was not the same intersection that it once was. 

“In that respect, we needed to think more broadly about ways to implement mixed uses here and make the area more walkable,” he said. “That led us to establish a walkable internal street network with new open spaces and parking located in the rear.”

One by one, each of the City Councilors expressed their excitement with the plan to revitalize the area. 

“I was very impressed with the details, and I don’t think you’ve left anything out,” Councilor Lisa Ford said. 

Vice-Mayor Christie Gillespie commented as to how many people were involved in creating this new zoning document. 

“I feel like a lot of people have had their fingers on this document,” she said. “I am so proud of this committee and the consultants that worked so hard.”

Community Development Director Larry Curtis thanked his staff for their diligence on the project. He said the document’s detail provides clear guidelines for renovations and how to bring the facilities up to code.

Matt Griffiths, Civic Engagement Chair of the Broken Arrow Young Professionals, also favored the proposal. 

“Broken Arrow Young Professionals have reviewed and support the New Orleans Square Overlay District and we believe many residents will benefit greatly from it,” Griffiths said. 

He said the Overlay District provides several items that have been proven to attract and retain young professionals in other communities.

Griffiths highlighted the benefits of the plan that will specifically improve the way of life for people ages 18-40, such as the modern housing options such as townhouses, duplexes, and flats. 

“And, for the growing number of people that are choosing not to drive a car, enhanced amenities such as exercise studios, shared workspaces, restaurants, and retail services would all be in walking distance,” Griffiths said. “It would draw young professionals to what could become the next big mini-center in New Orleans Square.”

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