Even with temperatures in the low 100s, Oklahoma City residents gathered in droves this summer to enjoy weekly outdoor movies on a grand lawn just beyond the glimmering new 50-story Devon Energy Center and marvel at the ongoing transformation of their downtown.
Oklahoma City, a sprawling, vehicle-addicted community long known for big-box architecture and chain stores rather than boutique shopping and style, is celebrating a renewed emphasis on architecture and design. A downtown declared dead in 1989 by city-council members is now home to a growing population that routinely gathers for independent-film screenings, live musical performances, and other cultural events. It has not just survived but thrived through the 'great recession' of 2009. It ranked seventh in the nation for private-job growth between 2010 and 2011, with a 2.75 percent jump of 12,000 new jobs (and placed third, at 3.68 percent, for new retail jobs). Population growth last year ranked 34th nationally, while a 4.9 percent unemployment rate is the lowest in the country among metropolitan areas with more than 1 million residents. OKC once briefly lost its orchestra, yet recently ranked in the top 10 percent of all U.S. cities in arts and entertainment employment. A mix of energy companies, aviation, and biosciences firms are credited with placing the metropolis of 1.2 million atop this year's Gallup Job Creation Index.