The weekend’s most persistent rumor — that Whole Foods would be locating a store along Oklahoma City’s Classen Curve — drew this comment from Blair Humphreys:
The Classen Curve is hidden away, comparatively poorly accessible, and does not address the need for better grocery options closer to downtown. My guess is the people at Whole Foods have studied the situation and determined that this location is better than than anything else available, but I don’t think they fully understand our city. One thing about OKC, that few national retailers seem to grasp, is that the city consists of a patchwork of neighborhoods with varying socioeconomic attributes. And, while there is not a conical epicenter of wealth (Nichols Hills? No, it drops off considerably in almost every direction), there are a number of higher-income nodes that are very accessible to each other, due to: minimal traffic congestion, efficient (i.e. overbuilt) roads, and ample highways. While the immediate demographic ring study may not compare favorably for an area like 10th and Broadway, the location remains very accessible to anyone working downtown, anyone living throughout the historic central city neighborhoods, and anyone as far north as downtown Edmond who wishes to shop at Whole Foods and is willing to drive approx. 15-20 minutes on Broadway Extension to get there. A typical demographic ring study that might make a more congested and more consistently segregated city look good for retail, will not demonstrate, what is really, a collectively strong buying power available in Oklahoma City.
It’s interesting that he equates “efficient” with “overbuilt,” but it is that excess of capacity that enables me to complete both halves of my daily commute (21 miles round trip) in forty minutes or less.
But Humphreys’ “patchwork” description is dead accurate: for instance, the square mile from 36th to 50th, Pennsylvania to May, includes some perfectly lovely homes, some fairly decent mid-priced ones, and some that are downright scary. Go a mile in any direction and you’ll find similar, if perhaps not as pronounced, discontinuities.
As for Whole Foods itself, I figure they could put it on the far side of Edmond and people would still drive up there from Crown Heights. (For that matter, I buy my shoes in Edmond.) Classen Curve is a downer only if you had your heart set on seeing it downtown, in which case you were dreaming. Besides, the closest competing grocer would be a Walmart Supercenter, and nobody worries if the Lamborghini showroom is too close to a Kia dealership.
Then again, we don’t have a Lamborghini dealer. Yet.