Downtown Oklahoma City Partnership Updates Kerr Park with Grant from Southwest Airlines
(OKLAHOMA CITY) – The Downtown Oklahoma City Partnership is nearing completion on enhancements made to Kerr Park through the Southwest Airlines’ Heart of the Community program, a grant it received in 2017. A public kickoff party celebrating the re-opening will take place Tuesday, August 21 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Kerr Park, located at 102 Robert S. Kerr Ave.
The total budget for the park’s improvements and programming was $250,000, which included $200,000 from Southwest®, as well as funds from Downtown Oklahoma City Initiatives and the Downtown Business Improvement District. In-kind donations from SandRid
ge Energy and Project for Public Spaces, as well as partnerships with local government, were also integral in the process.
The goal of the park’s update was to reinvigorate the space and bring people back to the area. In their grant application, Downtown Oklahoma City Partnership staff identified several problem areas and goals they hoped to achieve.
“We found that downtown employees and residents were unsure how to use the space and what activities might be allowed there. We are hoping the new architectural elements and enhanced programming bring people back to Kerr Park, and that they begin thinking of it as a place for them—for the entire community,” said Jill Delozier, vice president at the Downtown Oklahoma City Partnership.
In their grant application, Downtown Oklahoma City Partnership staff said “Kerr Park has the potential to offer an alternative meeting space for those who work in the surrounding towers and to provide an area where they can have coffee or lunch at the park. It can also serve as a backyard for downtown’s 7,500 residents and their families, a gathering space for rallies and special events, and a place to enjoy the city’s skyline up close. We know that placemaking, especially when done in or near a green space, and projects which incorporate public art, can make an impact on the local economy and on the health and happiness of those who use the space.”
Before planning began, several community engagement workshops and an online survey were organized to gather input from local residents, workers, design professionals, social service and arts organizations, as well as stakeholders and nearby property owners.
“Seating and shade were by far the most requested amenities among those we interviewed and surveyed,” said Delozier. “We wholeheartedly agree, and are adding a large pavilion and more than 84 seats to the space.”
Over the course of the next month, the following items will be installed in Kerr Park:
- 36 chairs
- 9 cafe tables
- 2 outdoor sofas
- 4 arm chairs
- 4 loungers
- 3 BOA play benches
- 3 standard benches
- 2 picnic tables with retractable shades
- 8 planters with trees and flowers
- A communal table with 12 seats
- 1 ping pong table
- Bocce ball and ping pong equipment
- 2 trash and recycling stations
- Decorative lighting
In addition to the amenities, nearby businesses such as SandRidge Energy, The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, Echo Energy and many others, plan to use the space on a regular basis for company and community events. The Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department manages the space with SandRidge as a maintenance partner, and the Parks Department also plans to activate the space with health and fitness activities and neighborhood gatherings.
“The ultimate goal is for downtown workers and residents to think of this park their own park. In fact, we used the slogan ‘Kerr Park Your Park,’ in our promotional pieces. It would be wonderful to create opportunities for visitors to form an emotional connection to the space and to the city as a whole while visiting the park,” continued DeLozier. “Although we are planning for a high level of programming, another ideal outcome would be for the space to eventually begin self-programming. If people brought their own blankets, games, or even birthday cakes, we would consider it an enormous success.”
Kerr Park, located in the heart of Oklahoma City’s central business district, underwent a multi-million dollar renovation that was completed by SandRidge Energy in the summer of 2016. However, the space remained underutilized.
Since 2013, Southwest Airlines has invested more than $6.4M in building
connections, and it has awarded 20 grants through the Southwest Airlines’ Heart of the Community program. The 2017 grant recipients were chosen from a competitive pool of 75 applicants representing 43 cities nationwide.
“At Southwest Airlines we build community wherever we are, whether at our gates, in our planes, or out in the communities we serve,” said Linda Rutherford, Southwest Airlines Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer. “That is the inspiration behind Southwest Airlines’ Heart of the Community program. By investing in authentic relationships and creating spaces and opportunities that bring people together, we can build connections and strengthen communities. We’re excited to see the positive impact each of these spaces will have as a result of these grants.”
As one of the three grant recipients for the year, Downtown Oklahoma City Partnership also received technical assistance from Project for Public Spaces. Their expertise in placemaking helped inform the team on how to best engage the local community, what amenities work best in certain areas and for different uses, as well as how to track progress through data collection.
“Our goal in working with the 2017 Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grant recipients is to help them create great public spaces where everyone in the community feels welcome,” said Fred Kent, Founder and President of Project for Public Spaces. “When people in communities come together in this effort, results are tangible and immediate, and the placemaking process itself helps to strengthen the sense of belonging, sociability, and inclusion that great places naturally generate.”
The Kerr Park Kick Off Party on August 21 will serve as the official unveiling of the park’s new amenities. It will feature a live DJ, yard games, and complimentary pizza for all guests while supplies last. At 11:00 a.m., there will be a short “garland cutting” ceremony and remarks from Southwest Airlines, dignitaries from the City of Oklahoma City, and Downtown Oklahoma City Partnership. The event is free and open to the public and no RSVP is necessary.
Read more about project details in the article, “Park Place“ by Steve Lackmeyer.