Q&A - June 28, 2015

Like many residents, I was surprised to learn that downtown Okmulgee had a Post Office building even older than the Post Office currently in use. For the purpose of creating student loft apartments, OSUIT purchased the 1918 Post Office building along with the retail building that was added to it in 1919. The two-story, 40,000 sq. ft., old post office complex makes up the city block between Grand Avenue and Central Avenue along the north side of 5th Street. It sets approximately one block north of the square.

This week, I would like to respond to a couple of logistical questions that I have heard about college students residing in buildings like the Grand Old Post Office once it is refurbished.

Q: Has OSUIT taken into consideration transportation challenges for students who may be assigned housing downtown and getting to their classes?

Due to the nature of OSUIT’s unique niche in the education market, a significant portion of our students have always been non-traditional—more mature students. For quite some time, these students have expressed their interest in having less-traditional housing options than what are currently available on campus, and this has been amplified by the fact that there are such limited rental options within the local community. Our intent is that the downtown housing options will be reserved primarily for these non-traditional students who are generally more mobile with their own vehicles.

Downtown Okmulgee is approximately 1.5 miles from the OSUIT campus. Should students prefer not to use their own vehicles, there are various other transportation options. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation runs a trolley Monday through Friday from the downtown area to the OSUIT campus. The KI BOIS Transit System (KATS) operates a fleet of vans in Okmulgee and is available to anyone for a small fee. KATS provides needed transportation all over town.

Additionally, OSUIT has recently purchased a 23 passenger electric “people mover.” We can use this vehicle for transporting students to and from downtown if it is deemed to be necessary. It is also important to remember that OSUIT students will always have the option of living on-campus if transportation is too great of a concern for them.

Q: How will we handle the problem of parking downtown if we have all these students living there?

Let’s keep in mind, the real problem for Okmulgee is not full parking spaces downtown, it is empty parking spaces downtown. One of our stated goals is to bring life back to downtown Okmulgee and one of the best signs of life are vehicles.

We are anticipating the number one transportation issue for students residing downtown will be parking. To this end, OSUIT has been working with the City of Okmulgee to purchase two parking areas, an existing 53 space parking lot and a vacant lot that could be turned into a new 75 space parking lot. It is still early in our conversations, but developing these lots to their fullest potential could more than satisfy the need for OSUIT student vehicles and actually provide a net gain for downtown public parking.

Good questions this week. Please email your thoughts and additional questions to osuit-president@okstate.edu. This will help me in developing future columns.