From Parking Lot To World-Class Public Space In Tulsa

December 12, 2016

The George Kaiser Family Foundation shares the story of Guthrie Green: an amazing transformation of a contaminated truck loading facility in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma into a vibrant urban park that showcases the best of modern-day “green” technology.

An Interview With Stanton Doyle Of The George Kaiser Family Foundation

Stanton Doyle is the Senior Program Officer with the George Kaiser Family Foundation. Stanton has spearheaded the GKFF's effort with Guthrie Green since the project's inception, and formerly served as the park's Director.

What was the catalyst for the vision behind the George Kaiser Family Foundation purchasing a former industrial site and embarking on the transformation that would become Guthrie Green?

In 2007, GKFF, Philbrook and OU helped retain the Adkins Collection of Contemporary Native American and Southwestern Art in Oklahoma.  Part of the deal was for GKFF to build a facility for the collection in the Arts District. In an effort to stimulate more activity, GKFF planned on a green space across from the facility to help promote community and remove the freight lot that discouraged pedestrian activity.

The Brady Arts District has been in existence since the 1980’s.  In developing Guthrie Green. GKFF hosted some community visioning sessions to help the neighborhood vision coalesce in order to help drive the vision for our development projects and Guthrie Green.  These were led by Creative Community Builders out of Minneapolis.  These sessions and others with SWA architects helped form the small area plan for the City master plan

Image Credit Brady Arts District

During the planning of the park, I understand that the artistic community was engaged to provide feedback on the park's design. What were the major themes identified during that process and what features of Guthrie Green are present today as a result of that engagement from local stakeholders?

Feedback from the community vision process showed a strong interest in walkability, art-based activities, an interest in appealing to families.  The stage at the center of the park activities was a response to those interests.  

Project for Public Spaces talks in detail about the outer square of public space being just as important in the inner square. How does Guthrie Green integrate into the surrounding neighborhood?

Guthrie Green has no fences, wide sidewalks, and all activities are free.  The streetscape design is the same as the rest of the neighborhood. We work closely with the neighborhood on programming.

Above: The Brady Arts District Streetscape Plan. Image Credit: City of Tulsa.
Below: A pedestrian entrance and sidewalk treatments on the edge of Guthrie Green. Image Credit: SWA.
The streetscape bordering Guthrie Green is consistent with streetscape treatments that have been integrated throughout the Brady Arts District, given the entire area a consistent look and feel.

Since the opening of Guthrie Green, have there been any design or programming elements that didn't quite work as initially envisioned and what lessons were learned during that process?

We’ve tried having weekly markets and there doesn’t seem to be much appetite for that from consumers or vendors – there are other weekly farmers markets.  It’s difficult to make a restaurant in a park work.  Most of the traffic funneled into Luckys On The Green comes from events held in the park.

As far as funding, how did Guthrie Green get built and how does the Foundation fund programming the space?

Guthrie Green was built and is programmed with funds from the George Kaiser Family Foundation.  The only outside funds were from the Oklahoma DEQ for brownfield cleanup and a federal grant to develop the geothermal system.  

Image Credit: SWA

What makes Guthrie Green a special place for Tulsa at large?

What makes Guthrie Green special is the community collaborations that bring great programming every day of the week from April to November.  Local nonprofits work closely with our staff to deliver great events that have been embraced by Tulsa.  Before Guthrie Green, activity in the district was limited to weekend evenings and a small lunch crowd.  Now, there is a daily draw to Guthrie Green that helps stimulate business in the neighborhood and makes the neighborhood friendlier to residents.  The incredible crowds Guthrie Green gets week after week has demonstrated that there was an unmet demand for free family friendly activities.  It has been astounding to see just how much of an appetite Tulsa has for new experiences.  Guthrie Green activities also attract a very diverse crowd – which is gratifying.  There is always more work to do but the staff of Guthrie Green has done a fantastic job creating a place that brings together the entire Tulsa community.  

About George Kaiser Family Foundation
George Kaiser Family Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty through investments in early childhood education, community health, social services and civic enhancement. Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, GKFF works primarily on initiatives developed in collaboration with Tulsa-based direct service organizations. For more information about George Kaiser Family Foundation, visit

Cover Image Credit: SWA
Article by Mike Field

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