MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

July 19, 2013

Many favor downtown for growth

AIM online survey draws 664 respondents

By Wendy Burton
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Many Muskogee residents named downtown as a place they want to see new retail, restaurants and entertainment, according to a recent survey.

The downtown area as a location for new development was favored overwhelmingly throughout the answers given in the recent Action in Muskogee survey, AIM Co-Chair Lisa Wade Raasch said.

The AIM survey results were revealed and discussed at the group’s regular steering committee meeting Thursday.

Questions from the survey, which was available online for more than a month, ran the gamut from which restaurant Muskogee needs to the best way to improve life in Muskogee.

And the answers from 664 respondents show the initiative committees are heading in the right direction to meet the needs and wants of the Muskogee community, she said.

“I was struck by how closely these answers aligned with the early AIM meetings,” Raasch said. “For example, one of the biggest responses was to clean up the city, and downtown came up over and over again.”

And respondents overwhelmingly said downtown Muskogee was the place they want to see more restaurants, she said.

In retail development, downtown was also the first choice for location, with Shawnee Bypass coming in second, Raasch said.

“Target and Old Navy were by far the most popular stores requested, and there’s a real interest in a big chain sporting goods store,” she said.

The people who answered the survey questions were a diverse range of ages, Raasch said. Of the 664 respondents, 9 percent were under age 30, 66 percent were between 31 and 59 and 25 percent were over 60.

People with school-aged children in their home made up 36 percent of respondents.

Information revealed by the majority of survey responses includes:

• Muskogee’s proximity to lakes, rivers, urban areas, friendly people, annual events, history and parks make it a great place to live and to visit.

• Cleaning up the city, more and better paying jobs, improving the streets, revitalizing downtown and reducing crime are among the most important items needed to improve the quality of life in Muskogee.

• Of new restaurants desired, Olive Garden received the most votes with 332, or 50 percent of respondents. A steak house such as Texas Roadhouse or Outback came in second with 29 votes.

• More than 92 percent of respondents said it’s important to attract new family entertainment venues, such as miniature golf, children’s museums, go-carts and indoor sports fields.

• The area most chosen for expanded family entertainment venues is near the Love-Hatbox Sports Complex.

• Most respondents said a hands-on science or children’s museum was their top choice to improve arts and educational options in Muskogee. Most also said it would be best to place it in the existing museum district near the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame and Three Rivers Museum.

Asked to rank a list of the city’s development priorities, most respondents said having restaurants, coffee shops and entertainment venues in downtown open in the evenings is most important.

Family activities, family-friendly restaurants, a children’s museum, outdoor recreation and getting a destination outdoor retailer ranked in the middle.

The least favored development idea was nightlife and entertainment, such as a piano bar, upscale wine and art bar etc.

Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or wburton@muskogeephoenix.com.