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Notes on the Geography of The Heartland State: Oklahoma: Norman 8: The National Accounts Move In

Yes, Norman has a mall and even a power center.

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About 1980, the Sooner Fashion Mall was planted at the corner of Main Street and Interstate 35.

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The mall sagged badly in the late '90s, when its shed-style trusses began to look cheap. Worse, big-box category-killers were hatching just to the south. Time for a sprucing-up? You bet. This, then, is the "before" shot.

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The "after" shot, shortly before completion. Higher roof, more light, new floor. Grouches complain that they expect to head down the concourse, turn left, and find Gate 29A on the right, but grouches generally avoid the place anyway. Was the makeover successful? Yes, to the extent that the owner (GGP) was able to raise rents enough to drive independent merchants off the premises.

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South of the mall, Ed Noble Parkway runs between Interstate 35 and a big-box and casual-dining lineup.

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The strip here is part of a developer's hope to build a mixed-use neighborhood masterplanned by William Pereira. It didn't happen, but this lake is a vestige of those ambitions.

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The developer lost control of the land, which became a power center.

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The lake just sat there for years, often just mud.

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Next to it, a restaurant went up, but the customers can't see the water. That would have been nice, but the builder was in a hurry and didn't have time to customize his floor plan.

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Twenty years later, in 2009, a lakeside restaurant was finally under construction. Five years later, it still hadn't opened. Consolation time: Rome wasn't built in a day.

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Away from the lake/pond, commercial development moved a lot faster, thanks to experts from Dallas.

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They helped Norman develop a beautiful new commercial distract, with Office Max, Barnes and Noble, Just for Feet, and Old Navy. Within five years, most of them were gone, but at least the space wasn't boarded up.

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Note the canopies, suggesting a merchant with apron and boater.

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A dozen restaurants have come and gone, including this one. Steaks. It's hard to knock the brave effort to create a patio in this environment, fifty yards from a NAFTA-corridor highway, heavy with 18-wheelers. There was even heavy-duty misting from the pergola, to cool the otherwise blistering summer days. No luck; no go. The restaurant was replaced by a seafood chain which itself rolled over and disappeared.

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Sometimes, when life gets a little arid, Normanites seek authentic culture.

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A pump theatens to douse disruptive customers. The handrail is a concession to the litigious.

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Same place. It has a stock tank (sans stock) and a pipeline dead dry.

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A triumphal arch? Not far short of it, especially considering that this superstore was rammed down the community's throat. It stands alongside Interstate 35, so passersby en route to Dallas or Kansas City can see that Norman is plugged-in.

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New fields to conquer? You bet. Lindsey Street ended here, with traffic turning right to the power center and, a mile to the north, Sooner Mall. This is a historic picture, though, because Lindsay now blazes through here. Nice woodland?  Not for long: builders have plans.


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