As a last nod to the work undertaken in Oklahoma City, I thought we could explore a couple of their most interesting redevelopment projects more closely this week. There were two, in particular, that caught my eye, both for their use of long-term strategy as well as their willingness to take a risk on something new.
The first example I’d like to share is Summit OKC. Oklahoma City has a modern history based on cattle, and there is still a functional stockyard just outside of downtown, albeit much reduced in size from its heyday. Many related agricultural buildings, from yards to abattoirs to silos, were abandoned over the years as the livestock trade diminished. In 1999, a fitness company bought a vacant commercial grain silo facility with a unique vision: to create a top-notch, all-weather destination for rock climbing enthusiasts. The 90-foot silos were perfect for tall, steep climbs for all ability levels, both inside and out. The massive silos and attached buildings also had enough room to host general fitness and yoga equipment and classes. The sheer metal walls were converted to a wide range of climbing surfaces, including “top-rope, lead, auto-belay, and bouldering.” Here I would suggest a Google search to understand what all that means, because I don’t, but I can tell you it looks amazing. It looks like a ton of fun, too! On days where the weather isn’t quite as broiling as it was when we were in town, I’m told that you can see die-hard climbers scaling the outside of the silos, as well. In 2016 the business was purchased by a larger company, Summit Climbing, and it is still going strong today, bringing a unique indoor/outdoor recreation business to downtown Oklahoma City.
Another venture that was built on the remnants of the livestock trade, albeit in a slightly different manner, is Riversport. Oklahoma City always had a river running through it; frontier cities were generally founded on streams and rivers, and OKC is no exception. But for much of the city’s history, the river was basically a glorified drain for stormwater and waste products. Tanneries, abattoirs, and other livestock-related businesses lined its banks, and one can only imagine the sights and smells that would have greeted visitors at the turn of the twentieth century. At the turn of the twenty-first, however, a new vision was created for the river, and, with some of the funding raised through the MAPS program, a seven-mile stretch of the trickling waterway was cleaned up, dams and locks were built, and the Oklahoma River was born. The first activity available on the new river was rowing, started by the Riversport Foundation, with only a few boats and a small shed. Today Riversport OKC hosts an Olympic rowing course as well as manmade whitewater rapids, tubing, surfing, adventure courses, zip lines, high speed slides, extreme jumping, climbing walls, pump tracks, sailing, flatwater kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, a bike park with pump tracks and a mountain bike skills trail, and, as of 2021, indoor alpine skiing. The success of the commercial side of the organization allows Riversport to run numerous charitable initiatives for the residents of Oklahoma City, all focused on allowing everyone equitable access to outdoor recreation, health, and well-being.
We might not have 90-foot silos or a glassy-calm, straight river to makeover, but we do have a gorgeous and wild river and copious vacant or underutilized buildings, tanks, and properties to suit a variety of commercial and recreational opportunities. If you have an idea for a creative reuse of a space near you, feel free to reach out and see how we can help you bring your vision to life!