Historic area of Tulsa OK—devitalized by bad urban planning—gets $500,000 to revitalize

A half a million dollars from the QuikTrip fast food chain is bringing new life and opportunity to the Kendall-Whittier neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Part of the funding will renovate the neighborhood’s Archer Park.

The area won’t change overnight but progress has begun thanks to the grant and the 18 agencies helping families in the neighborhood get moving on the revitalization.

This neighborhood has seen a lot of changes over the years. Before 244 went in, this neighborhood was a strong, blue collar neighborhood,” says Debbi Guilfoyle , Executive Director of Crosstimber Learning Center said of the destructive urban highway that severed the neighborhood in 1967, and that has continued devitalizing it ever since.

In those days, car-worshiping urban planners were suffering from their latest fad, which dictated that no price was too high if it served the needs of automobile drivers. Of course, that price was paid almost exclusively by low-income residents and (especially) ethnic minorities.

Guilfoyle says the area–which suffers from a high percentage of absentee landlords who neglect their rental properties–is in need of help. “We are working together with rebuilding Tulsa and helping them with their funding to rehab homes in our neighborhood,” Guilfoyle said. All homeowners have to do is apply and they can get a facelift to their home free of charge.

Two neighborhood organizations have been working to revitalize the area for many years, with significant success. One is Kendall Whittier Main Street. The newly-flourishing Kendall Whittier area is home to a growing collection of artists and ventures. In the past two years, 17 businesses and approximately 120 jobs have been added to the neighborhood — thanks in part to $11.5 million in private investments, says Ed Sharrer, executive director of Kendall Whittier Main Street>.

The other revitalizing non-profit is Kendall Whittier Incorporated (KWI). For over 40 years, has been committed to the revitalization and support of historic Kendall Whittier,and working to undo the social and economic damage inflicted on the area by urban planners back in the 60s.

Rich in history and culture, Kendall Whittier is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Tulsa, and is currently undergoing great redevelopment and growth. However, many Kendall Whittier residents continue to experience many of the challenges caused by systemic poverty, including poor nutrition and food insecurity. KWI targets specific basic needs to provide assistance to neighbors in need.

The overwhelming majority of KWI’s clients live below the poverty line, especially children. Through KWI’s Emergency Food Pantry (EFP) and community gardens programs – the GROW Teaching Garden and Tipton Community Garden – we provide nutritious food for today and inspiration for tomorrow. We also are active partners with other agencies in the neighborhood and work together with them to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable residents – seniors, children and people with disabilities.

KWI was formed by a coalition of neighborhood churches in 1968 as a response to the deterioration of the neighborhood. Four of these founding churches are still components today and provide support to our mission along with The University of Tulsa: College Hill, Grace Lutheran, St. Francis Xavier Catholic, and University United Methodist. Neighborhood residents and others with an interest in the well-being of the Kendall Whittier neighborhood are also actively involved.

QuikTrip Corporation is a privately held company headquartered in Tulsa. Founded in 1958, QuikTrip has grown to a more than $11 billion company with 700+ stores in eleven states. Those revenues place QuikTrip high on the Forbes listing of largest privately held companies. With over 19,700 employees, Fortune has ranked QuikTrip on the list of Best Companies To Work For the last fourteen years. QuikTrip also gives back to the communities it serves, donating 5% of net profits to charitable organizations.

See ABC8 article by Amy Jenson.

See Tulsa people article & photo credit.

See Kendall Whittier Main Street website.

See Kendall Whittier Inc. website.

See QuikTrip website.

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