After being stalled out for more than a year, the clean-up of Block 34, a vacant, city-owned block that sits next to the Stillwater Community Center, is about to get rolling again.
Block 34 has long presented both a challenge and an opportunity for the City of Stillwater as it looks for the best way to leverage a sizable plot of open land in the midst of downtown.
The City Council heard the first proposals for Block 34 in 2012.
There have been competing visions over the years, with some calling for more intensive development while others saw it primarily as a public space similar to Guthrie Green in Tulsa.
The Block 34 Trust was created in 2017 and tasked with developing a plan and finding the funding to build it. The city council-appointed committee has been working on a concept that combines green space with amenities like a performance stage.
Some commercial development on the southeast corner for hospitality is included in the plan.
Block 34 Trust member Jim Beckstrom said it’s a model that has been successful in other communities and the feedback the trust has gotten from the public has been positive.
City Manager Norman McNickle told the News Press dirt should start being moved for the long-awaited leveling of Block 34 in 2-3 weeks. An irrigation system and sod will then be installed to make the surface more usable for community events.
He also said a developer is showing some interest in Block 34. He wasn’t able to share any details about who it is or what the project might be.
Beckstrom said he hasn’t heard anything so far that is incompatible with the plan the Block 34 Trust has been developing over the past few years.
The Trust has secured a good chunk of the funding that would be needed to start building the proposed stage. The question becomes how the project should proceed and whether it should be done in phases, he said.
But before anything else happens, the lot needs to be leveled and grass needs to be planted.
McNickle said the hope is that Block 34 will be in good enough shape to host some community events and possibly even some events sponsored by the City of Stillwater by this summer, if everything goes well.
“The great news for me is we can start putting the block to work,” Beckstrom said. “… Part of me says let’s just get something going.”