The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

11 December 2004

Saturday spottings (urban/exurban)

For no particularly good reason today, I found myself traipsing around Newcastle, a McClain County town just down I-44/US 62 from southwest Oklahoma City, which, although it certainly doesn't look like it now, might be the next big Suburban Destination. At least some of the pieces are in place: it's a local call from anywhere in the city, it's relatively easy to get to, and both southwest Oklahoma City and west Norman, on the opposite side of the Canadian River, are experiencing something of a boom. What's more, perhaps in anticipation of their coming status, the city fathers have annexed basically everything in the county north of Highway 9 and west of I-35 that wasn't already incorporated into, or surrounded by, the city of Blanchard: they have almost 50 square miles to work with. Wal-Mart has put in a Supercenter on NW 32nd Street (SW 179th Street/Indian Hills Road if Oklahoma City or Norman extended this far), and a couple of housing developments are underway. And since the north Newcastle exit from I-44 (US 62/277, which is Main Street) is the last free exit before the road turns into the H. E. Bailey Turnpike — but you can see the pattern here. The population is a modest 6,000 or so right now; I wouldn't be surprised if it hit 20,000 by 2020.

Meanwhile, things are still happening in the middle of town. Oklahoma City's Neighborhood Services department is putting in half a dozen new houses along NE 5th Terrace, between the Oklahoma Health Center and Washington Park, and I took a look this afternoon. They're quite nice, and the neighborhood itself I would characterize as "on the upswing": some of the older homes in the area are a bit on the ramshackle side, but they haven't been allowed to become seriously dilapidated, and the newer buildings are kept up well. For a "brownfield" — an area whose proximity to industrial use may have resulted in ground or groundwater contamination — it looks pretty good. One visual disappointment in the area is the boarded-up Page Woodson School, which served as the "Negro high school" in the early days of Jim Crow. However, the majestic old 1910 building may be getting a new lease on life: Oklahoma City Northeast Inc., with some serious backing from the local community, wants to reopen the school as an African-American cultural center, and has asked the city to include it in their project list for the local Empowerment Zone.

Marquee on a westside church: WHAT DID NOAH DO WITH THE WOODPECKERS? Your guess is as good as mine, maybe better.

And apparently Bricktown, as a trademark, is far more extensible than previously imagined; there's an inn called "Bricktown Guest Suites" going in on SE Grand Blvd. at I-35, a good four miles from the downtown district whose name it borrows.

Posted at 3:48 PM to City Scene