Stuart McDaniel Speaks at Downtown Tulsa’s East Village Meeting

Community / 09.03.13 / Beverly McDaniel

The following excerpt is from a Tulsa World article:
Canfield, Kevin. “Tulsa entrepreneur leading organizing effort in downtown’s East Village.”
Tulsa World 01 Sep. 2013.

Stuart McDaniel….absolutely loves the East Village, located on the east side of downtown.

That’s where his business is and that’s where he wants it to grow, along with the rest of the burgeoning community. So recently he invited property and business owners in the district – along with anyone else interested in seeing the area thrive – to a meeting at the American Theatre Company’s new office on Lansing Avenue to pitch the idea of organizing. “It was to kind of get the initial sense (of whether) everyone is ready for this,” McDaniel said after the meeting. “Because in the past it has been a bit rocky… I think we are finally ready for it. There is enough development and activity.”

If the turnout was any indication, GuRuStu, as he is called by some, is right.

About 80 people showed up to listen to him sell the virtues of coming together as a district to speak with one voice.”Brady (District) is cool. Brady is amazing,” McDaniel told the crowd. “But this is the largest area of undeveloped land in the city with this kind of potential. And we can do some great things here.” McDaniel lists the district’s boundaries as the railroad tracks between First Street and Archer Street to the north, 11th Street to the south, U.S. 75 to the east and Elgin Avenue to the west.

He’s quick to point out that the boundaries are drawn in sand and not meant to encroach on any neighboring districts. “We want downtown to thrive. We want midtown to thrive. We want the city to succeed and grow,” McDaniel said. “There is no point in competing districts.” That was apparent by the turnout, which included Elliot Nelson, who owns businesses in neighboring districts and is developing residential properties in the East Village. He was one of several East Village business and property owners who accepted McDaniel’s invitation to stand up during the meeting and tell their stories.

The story of McDaniel’s business has roots in south Tulsa, of all places. After starting out of his parents’ home as a 16-year-old high school student, he eventually opened an office on 66th Street and Lewis Avenue. But he badly wanted to be downtown. So in 2011 he bought property on Third Street and moved his business in last year.

He’s loved every minute of it and soon realized he was surrounded by a bunch of talented people. But he waited awhile before attempting to organize his fellow stakeholders. “I didn’t want to get down here and be this new guy starting all this trouble,” he said after the meeting. He should be OK. He couldn’t get a word out after the meeting because people – 99 percent of whom have been in the East Village much longer than he – were stopping to thank him and say he’d done a great job. Lana Thomas was one of them. She and her husband, Ronnie Thomas, own about a half-dozen properties in the district. “Everyone is coming together as a team and a community and working together to make it a great place,” Thomas said. “We want to be recognized as part of Downtown Tulsa.” McDaniel, of course, doesn’t stop there. He told the crowd that whether they like it or not, development is headed their way. “So we need to embrace it,” he said. “Because (otherwise) it is going to pass us by, and we’re going to have a whole bunch of people in the leadership (dictating) what’s happening in our district.”

Another meeting of East Village stakeholders has been planned, and McDaniel stresses he’s all ears. But he does have a clear idea of what he would like to see come from an organized East Village. “We want this area to go up in value,” he said. “We want pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, more sidewalks, more restaurants, more retail, more, more, more. “We want it all.”