As Juliet said to Romeo, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But as Broken Arrow’s downtown Rose District proves, sometimes a name change – and a facelift – can make downtown city life much sweeter indeed.
“In its heyday downtown had been the hub of the city, with many residents having fond memories of local merchants and service providers they frequented on Main Street, but many of those quaint businesses had long abandoned downtown,” says Lisa Frein, director of downtown development for the Broken Arrow Economic Development Corp.
Faced with a once-vibrant downtown that had languished in the face of big box retailers and suburban growth, city leaders set about finding a way to capture some of the revenue being lost to nearby communities. The city’s population had grown by 30 percent over the past decade to 100,000 residents, most of them young, well-educated and with disposable income. But they were going to Tulsa and elsewhere for dining, shopping and entertainment with few local downtown options.
Rose District Rehab
After considerable community-wide discussion and planning, in 2013 the city launched a redevelopment project to create a three-block arts, entertainment, shopping and dining center along Main Street, naming it the Rose District after Broken Arrow’s "City of Roses" nickname. A $4 million budget included rezoning to allow public events in the area, narrowing the street from four to two lanes to make the district pedestrian-friendly, widening sidewalks to facilitate outdoor dining and meet ADA standards, creating mid-block crossing to allow easier access to shops, and dramatic streetscape improvements that included landscaping, especially rose plantings, new lighting and more. The project was completed at the end of 2013 and has already had a major impact on the city.
“The infrastructure improvements came out looking great and now you’re seeing more bars and restaurants come in and more people coming down to shop and eat,” says Jason Scarpa, owner of Main Street Tavern, a fixture in the area for several years, and Roof Top Bar, which recently opened. "The city did an amazing job pulling off this project," he says. "It’s a place that Broken Arrow should be really proud of. It’s a place where people want to be.”
Sweet Smell of Success
Since the rehab of the district was announced in 2012, Frein says, about 15 new businesses have opened or plan to open, joining such longstanding business neighbors as Nouveau – Atelier de Chocolat and Star Jewelers. Sales tax revenues from the district have increased by 33 percent, and the occupancy rate has grown from 70-75 percent to 90-95 percent.
In time, the city hopes to expand the district south and north, introduce new events, and enhance bike and walking trails to make downtown even more attractive. In the meantime, everything is coming up roses in the district these days.
“It’s a perfect place for a ladies' brunch, family lunch after church, a date night meal before a show at the PAC or drinks after, guys' night out to watch the game, or a stroll through the shops on a Saturday afternoon after visiting the farmers market,” Frein says. “The Rose District is a gathering place for anyone – with something for everyone.”