OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Once booming with successful black-owned businesses, a portion of Northeast Oklahoma City it now sits mostly vacant – but a group is hoping to restore its glory.
If you travel to NE 4th Street near Kelley, you’ll hear the cars fly by and see the empty lots.
But Arthur Hurst remembers a much different scene.
“Right here was a drug store and a barber shop, a shoe shine parlor, a restaurant,” Hurst said. “It was a great place to be, a safe place to be.”
But in the ’60s and ’70s – urban renewal came in.
“And the first thing they did was destroy black business districts and in most cases ran a highway through them,” said Hurst.
Today – all that still stands is the Jewel Theatre that Hurst now owns.
“Built in 1931 during integration and what have you,” he said. “The theatre was one of the main attractions in this area here.”
Though it hasn’t been home to a show in years, Hurst says he tries to maintain this piece of history.
“Still with the hope that one day these lights will come back on and the sign will go back up, people will be coming to the theatre again,” he said.
Those dreams feel closer to reality now – as a study called “South of 8th” aims to guide the redevelopment of the historic area from NE 8th street to the railroad tracks from north to south and from Lottie Ave. to Lincoln Boulevard from east to west.
Through a series of meetings, they’re seeking community input on what they’d like to see in the area.
“So often, black communities aren’t included in the design and development process, especially when it comes to city planning, black communities get left out and here’s an opportunity for us to actually get a say in that design process,” said Erinn McKnight, who is working with South of 8th.
The first two meetings will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Bryant Center.
The second will be at 12:45 p.m.
The South of 8th Study is funded by the Oklahoma City Redevelopment Authority.