20 Years in the Plaza
A lot can change in 20 years. This is exemplified in the history of the Plaza District; once overrun with crime and blight, it is now a hub for art, culture, community, and really great food.
As we look forward to this weekend’s Plaza District Festival, our largest celebration of the year, we also look to our past. 20 years ago was the first Plaza District Festival, and each year has brought new changes and new patrons to our community.
Our association began in 1997 as a small network of community servants pulling weeds over the weekend and dreaming of a new future for the district.
Looking even further back to nearly a century ago, the Plaza District was a commercial niche in the 1920s, located at the end of a local trolley line. It was not until the mid-1930s with the installation of the Plaza Theatre that the area became known as the Plaza District. Between 1970 and 1990, the neighborhood had changed significantly, with a diminishing commercial area and skyrocketing crime rates. Businesses once flourishing had closed their doors, and the area became rampant with drugs, violence, and prostitution. Neighboring homes became dilapidated, and blight was pervasive.
Recognizing the potential for the area, numerous community members teamed up to restore the area. Entrepreneurs, locals, and property owners worked to beautify the area and make it more welcoming. Revitalization was ignited with the restoration of Plaza Theatre, now home to Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma.
We reflect back and appreciate those volunteers that envisioned a brighter future for the district and worked to make their collective vision become a reality.
Now, 20 years later, we look to the future, while celebrating all this community has become.
BY: NATALIE EVANS