6 reasons to live downtown
In preparation for Dwell in the IDL, I chatted with a few downtown residents to see what makes the burgeoning area so livable.
If you're anything like me, you've probably fantasized about living in the heart of an urban core, being able to walk to work, to the store, to your neighborhood bar, to shops and museums. In the past, these fantasies would only be attainable in much larger cities, but in recent years, downtown Tulsa is coming into its own as a place not just to work, but also play and live.
Many Tulsans have discovered the perks of downtown life, and with more residential development popping up every day, they are but the first pioneers.
The annual Dwell in the IDL tour presented by the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture will offer curious souls with urban core daydreams the chance to see how downtown living is made possible by adaptive reuse of historic, interesting buildings. Properties will be open to tour from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., so you can explore a range of residential living options at your own leisure.
“Every year the list of ‘Dwell’ buildings expands to include new, exciting spaces and gives tour-takers a chance to see the finished results of properties that were in initial stages of development on earlier tours,” says TFA Executive Director Amanda DeCort. “The tour is a fun and involving experience for young professionals who are thinking about relocating closer to work or to the arts scene."
Properties featured include the Jacob's Lofts on First, the Downtown YMCA remodel, the Palace Building and many more. But aside from these showcased buildings with their swanky amenities, there are plenty of other excellent reasons to live in downtown Tulsa.
1. Beat the traffic
If you live and work downtown, you can avoid the dreaded rush-hour slowdowns on 51, 44, 169 and 75 altogether (not to mention unpredictable construction). Or, if you're like Derrick Tarvin, and you live downtown and work in south Tulsa, you're just going in the complete opposite direction of most traffic.
"I also like being at the hub of all the highways in Tulsa," Tarvin adds, noting his location near 7th and Boulder — that means the rest of Tulsa's sprawl is only a few minutes away in any direction. Fellow 7th and Boulder dweller Mina Daneshvar agrees. "It's really quick to get anywhere," she says. "Like, even though there's no grocery downtown, I can get to the Reasor's on Lewis in less than a song."
And being at a transportation hub is a plus for more than running errands. "I was also right next to a shuttle stop for Oktoberfest which was extremely convenient," Daneshvar adds.
2. Live life on a human scale
Though walkability is still a huge concern in Tulsa as a whole, downtown is becoming more pedestrian-friendly as it becomes more residential. Sure, you still have to have a car, but living downtown, for many folks, means driving much less.
"There are weeks where I only have to drive once," says CPA and Riverview resident Eric Gammenthaler, who walks to meet clients downtown, and bikes nearly everywhere else. "River Parks are a huge plus."
"There's lots of space when you're on foot and everyone is kind of minding their own business," says educator and Deco District resident Sierra Kramer. "There's a freedom to it. We spend time in San Francisco during the summer, so downtown Tulsa feels pretty mellow." Kramer adds that the walkability of her area makes it more family-friendly than you might imagine — she and her daughter can walk to the library, to Guthrie Green, to go out to dinner. Still, she admits it still feels "odd" to travel on foot between the different developed patches of downtown. "But maybe it's just normal growing pains."
Abril Marshall works for a downtown nonprofit, and with her apartment mere blocks away, she can easily walk to work, which is a huge bonus.
Additionally, walking as opposed to driving means you actually have to interact with humans you encounter, and get to know your neighbors.
"Most of all my favorite part of living downtown is the diversity," says jewelry designer and East Village resident Jeana Acosta. "It's the reason I want to stay living in Tulsa."
3. Be at the center of social life
Now that downtown is an entertainment Mecca and no longer a weekend ghost town, living downtown means always having something to do — and, it means your friends will be coming to you.
"Half the time, if I make plans with friends, I end up just having to walk to meet up with them because more and more is happening downtown," says Zach Stanley, a medical student and Greenwood District resident.
"Our apartment was the gathering place 3-4 nights a week for friends hitting up Cain's, going out, double-dating, and attending various events and festivals," says business owner and former Tribune Lofts resident Charlie Spears.
"Every weekend there's always something to do," says jewelry designer and East Village District resident Jeana Acosta. "All you have to do is leave the house and take off walking."
"I never have to worry about parking for any event," adds Gammenthaler.
Another thing you never have to worry about? Getting a ride home.
"I like how it's easy to drink without a designated driver," says Marshall of her apartment's proximity to many of Tulsa's most popular bars.
For us youngsters, this idea of walking home is pretty enticing. After a night barhopping in Blue Dome, just toddle your tipsy butt on home. Invest in a few sleeping bags though, because your drunk friends will always be asking to crash on your floor.
4. Embrace quirks and character
This weekend's Dwell in the IDL event will be showing off some of Tulsa's most unique residential options — most of which, having been developed from historical buildings, simply can't be replicated. While small or esoteric apartment buildings may be a dealbreaker for those who love their walk-in closets and 3-car garages, many others are drawn downtown by those historic charms.
"I have a hatred for apartment complexes," admits Gammenthaler. "I'm happy that I get to choose from random small buildings instead." He adds that rent is also often much cheaper in these small buildings than sprawling complexes.
Artist Destiny Green also lives in Riverview, in a 1920s building with huge windows and hardwood floors. "I like to imagine all the people that lived in my apartment before me, and what they must have seen as the city grew," says Green. "Coming from Austin, it was crazy to me that I could have that much space and be within walking distance of the city center on my income."
5. Enjoy the view
I think we all love the views from downtown Tulsa. I love staring out the window and watching the city go by whenever I'm at the Mayo, or the Library or the Summit Club. Now, imagine having that outside your own window, every day. This perk was consistently mentioned by residents across downtown.
"I absolutely adore living down here," says Daneshvar. "I have a wonderful view of both the river and skyline."
6. Capture that inimitable energy
There's just something about being at the center of it all. Perhaps it's not the same quiet as a cul-de-sac, but nevertheless, activity can provide its own sort of peace.
It's these less tangible benefits Kramer is the most enamored with. She mentions a recent night when, out walking with her daughter, they encountered a fabulous photoshoot, a herd of theatre-goers "dressed to the nines" and even ran into some friends who bought them ramen at Roppongi.
"That's what I like about downtown right now," says Kramer.
"I feel like I'm part of the downtown community even if I'm just in my apartment with my patio door or my windows open," says Acosta. "I always hear people, cars, the train and even live music on the weekends."
"Sometimes if I leave the windows open, I can hear live music," agrees Daneshvar, "Though I'm not sure from where."
Want to pretend to live downtown for a day? Join me on the Dwell in the IDL tour!
Check-in to receive a passport for the event will take place at TFA’s Archive location, 633 S. Boston. On-street parking is free on Sundays, and additional parking is available at the adjacent Vault restaurant and at TCC’s northernmost Boston Ave. lot. A complimentary trolley will transport participants throughout the day.