When I first arrived in Muskogee as a student at Bacone College, Curt's Shopping Center — now Shawnee Crossing — was integral to my survival.
Between the Hastings Entertainment store, the Dollar General, the Big Lots and the Hunan's Chinese buffet, I could source everything I needed for college life, and because I didn't have a vehicle, Curt's was way more accessible than Walmart.
The center was this bustling little hub of activity that I found comforting as I acclimated to being in a new state. I would spend entire evenings sitting in Hastings before stopping by Dollar General and lugging a week's worth of ramen noodles and off-brand sodas back to the dorms, usually with friends.
Shawnee Crossing saw a bit of a downturn in recent years, with the exit of Hastings and the demolition of Hunan's. I found it strangely sad to see a place that was so important to my early days in Oklahoma so empty compared to before.
Now I drive by and see construction going on, with workers repairing and improving drainage and reconstructing the facade where Hastings used to be. More cars are pulling into the parking lot; more shoppers are filtering in and out of the stores. Life is returning, slowly but surely, to the area.
"We've leased over 100,000 square feet in the last few months," said Ryan George with Coldwell Banking, which controls the shopping center. "We're about full on the retail portion. It's been a good project."
That space has gone to larger stores like a Burkes Outlet and Dunham's Sports as well as smaller businesses, like a physical therapist's office — and that's just what's already in progress, George said.
"We're still working on that area. We should have some stuff to announce on the very back of the building," he said.
There's also discussion going on about what will go where the Bacone Inn, demolished recently, stood.
It's good to see stores coming to Muskogee in general, but I spent so much time as a student hoofing it back and forth from Bacone's campus and Shawnee Crossing that watching its slow revival has been special to me.
Here's hoping that growth continues not just at Shawnee Crossing, but throughout the city.