The Plaza District is a neighborhood commercial district boasting Oklahoma City’s local arts flavor.
Plaza is the place for local Oklahoma City flavor.
The Plaza District is the place to find true local arts in Oklahoma City. Established in the 1920′s, it is home to galleries, studios, retail shops, restaurants and creative services. Each business brings it’s own flavor and personality. It’s a thriving district made possible by individual’s committed to maintaining a deep sense of community.
The Roaring 20′s had it’s impact even in OKC. A commercial niche was formed along NW 16th Street between Blackwelder and Indiana Avenues. Trolley lines were popular modes of transportation before cars were widely owned. The Plaza District formed where these lines ended. It wasn’t until the mid 30′s that the name Plaza District stuck. As with most of the country, Oklahoma adapted to the changing times and economies. The area was in a state of disrepair and decline from the 70′s through the 90′s. Surrounding residents and people involved in the area decided to stay and repair their community. Their passion and efforts began to shift the environment making it a thriving district once again. Today, that same community spirit and willingness to work together to make something better still exists. The Plaza District Association continues to build a strong team of individuals with one focus: develop the Plaza District as a vibrant commercial district where arts, local business and community thrive.
We were able to meet up with Kristen Vails, Executive Director of the Plaza District Association, to get a more in-depth look into the Plaza District. Kristen takes us back to a simpler time in OKC when trolleys roamed the city streets. She continues to explain that because of its location, storefronts as well as a surrounding community of schools, neighborhoods and theaters began to develop. It seems like a really exciting time to have been in OKC. “It was a thriving community up until the 70′s,” Kristen notes as she explains the rough times the district would see as it entered the 80′s and 90′s. People were looking outside the city for places to live. Suburbia developed and places like the Plaza District were abandoned, leaving behind only a few who would eventually reclaim the area.
Film by Christopher Hunt
The Plaza District is a very diverse-progressive community.
A group of residents formed what is now known as the Plaza District Association. They were fed up with the impact the area was having on their home values and way of life. They decided to stay and fight for something bigger than themselves. Working within the community to find leaders, the Plaza District Association has done an excellent job at maintaining focus over the years and continues to adapt and grow. Establishing themselves as a 501 C3 in 1997, they look to fundraisers and events to draw in enough revenue to help maintain the district. The annual Plaza Festival is a major event that brings in large crowds and is a great way to experience the area with family and friends. The Festival will take place September 29th from noon until 10pm. It is a celebration of the Plaza District. The event is a great way to to experience local performing artist, visual artists and live musicians. Other than fundraisers and events, general donations are accepted, and they offer some cool packages for individuals looking to support.
Today, the Plaza District Association continues to facilitate expansion of the area and the community is growing. Creative entrepreneurs are coming in and setting up shop. Artists are setting up studios showcasing local works like nowhere else. The focus now is maintaining the momentum. Kristen mentioned the Plaza has a bit more leverage now. Credibility creates a more competitive business market which means great places for people to come and enjoy. In the true spirit of youth and creativity, the Plaza District begins to wake around 4pm in the afternoon and continues to entertain into the evening hours. A new restaurant coming in the spring will hopefully draw a lunch crowd.
The Plaza District is a progressive-diverse community that is driven by the idea that more can be achieved when people come together. We were excited to discover the rich history found in the Plaza District, and look forward to what the future has in store. The atmosphere stays fresh by promoting new Oklahoma artists and continually drawing in businesses with a creative niche. It’s the community that makes this place special. It is in the air you breathe, the shops you enter and in the people you meet. Take time in your busy schedule to visit the plaza. And be sure to attend the annual festival this September.