Since the spring of 2019, Block 34 in downtown Stillwater has been home to an engineering project and art installation that are now being removed to prepare the block for a massive makeover into a public park with a concert-ready stage and other amenities.

Block 34 wind turbine info sign

Many people in town have shared differing opinions of the 35-foot-tall wind turbine on the southwest corner of the block. Some think it is a waste of money or wasn’t very attractive. Others saw it as a symbol of collaboration and long overdue progress on a parcel of city-owned property that has been an eyesore for over a decade.

After generous donations from Steve and Becky Irby and Kicker – a car audio brand headquartered in Stillwater – the block is being prepared for construction.

That preparation includes the removal of both wind turbines and the art installation surrounding it. The turbines will move to Oklahoma State University’s north campus and the painted fence will find a home at the Prairie Arts Center.

Block 34 Trust Chairman and Director of interdisciplinary design at Oklahoma State University’s College of Engineering Architecture and Technology, Jim Beckstrom always planned this turbine and the smaller wind turbine on the northeast corner of the block to be educational pieces for students and the community.

Empty wind turbine base on Block 34

Chris Peters/Stillwater News Press

The southwest corner of Block 34 were the wind turbine once stood.

“The whole idea is that the students will be able to experiment with different turbines designs and learn about wind energy,” Beckstrom said. “Its (wind turbine) moving to OSU’s campus, there is an area called north campus, which is where several of the engineering labs are.”

Beckstrom noted the project was funded mainly by OSU. Relocating the large turbine to campus also allows students to redesign a base that will enable the turbine to be raised and lowered without removal. The smaller wind turbine already has a base that enables this functionality.

Originally the idea shared by the then Block 34 Task Force was for the wind turbine to generate enough electricity to power its own lighting and informational TV displays. While those items did get installed, the lights were barely noticeable and the TV displays were seemingly never used. It was clear that the turbine was generating a lot of unused power.

Deven Robinson has lived across the street from the large wind turbine for two years. He is very familiar with the sounds the turbine would make all hours of the day.

“At night, me personally, I didn’t hear it. But my neighbor back here, he complained about it all the time,” Robinson said. “It was pretty noisy but I’m also a pretty heavy sleeper. It sounded like a helicopter going off.”

Robinson thought the plans to turn the block into a park with a stage were pretty cool. When asked about the artwork on the fence surrounding the wind turbine, Robinson said, “It was cool to look at. It was better than nothingness.”

That artwork was done by Yatika Fields, a renowned Native American painter and muralist from Stillwater, in collaboration with Pouya Jahanshahi, a Graphics Design Professor at Oklahoma State University,

“My son and I physically moved it (painted fence) … it went to Prairie Arts,” Beckstrom told the News Press.

Meghan Brasuell, General Manager at the Prairie Arts Center, said the artwork is safely in storage.

“We’re hoping to put it back on display somewhere around our property,” Brasuell said. “We’re just very grateful to have it. We think it will enhance the areas around our facility.”

There was some hope that construction on the block would have begun sometime this summer or fall. According to Beckstrom, people should expect to see work start on the block this winter.

“The design work is ongoing,” Beckstrom said. “The Block 34 architecture and development committee has been meeting and we’re progressing towards community engagement to fundraise for some of the elements on the block.”

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