Over five acres (2 ha) of Gathering Place is Adventure Playground, laid out as a complex interwoven network of different experiences and things to do. (© Alex Maclean)

Land bridges connect the park upland to the riverfront over a major arterial roadway. (© Alex Maclean)

Type: Civic/public
Uses: Parks/open space, conservation zone, office, restaurant, parking
Developers: George Kaiser Family Foundation; Tulsa Gathering Place; River Parks Authority
Designers: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates; Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects
Size: 66.5 acres (26.9 ha)
Date acquired: April 2008–November 2010
Date started: September 2014
Date opened: September 2018

Land uses:

  • Buildings: 78,964 square feet (7,336 sq m)
  • Street/parking: 662,112 square feet (61,512 sq m)
  • Open space: 2,147,508 square feet (199,510 sq m)
  • Total: 2,896,740 square feet (269,116 sq m)

Gathering Place is a new park covering 66.5 acres (26.9 ha) on Tulsa’s waterfront along the Arkansas River. It is the largest public park created with private money, funded by $400 million from the George Kaiser Family Foundation through a public/private partnership with the city of Tulsa. The park incorporates the natural landscape into its design, using the river as a central feature and incorporating the natural topography with human-made topographic elements.

Gathering Place features more than 100 unique attractions to keep visitors engaged and to encourage return visits. The design of the park maintained as many existing trees as possible while planting 5,800 new ones, along with eight acres (3.2 ha) of meadow, mimicking the native flora and providing habitats for native species. In addition to cultivated native landscapes, geothermal wells heat and cool all buildings, all the park’s lighting is LED, and the park connects to bike trails around the city. The park strives to connect a segregated community, bringing together people of all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds through a variety of programming.

Gathering Place was designed with input from a diverse community throughout the process, to fulfill a longstanding need for a place where everyone can feel welcome to gather and interact. Within its first five months, the park surpassed its goal of serving 1 million visitors in its first year. This popularity, even during the fall and winter months, speaks to the strong sense of ownership that Tulsa residents feel for the park. With the endowment set up by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, Gathering Place will be a place for all Tulsans to come together for generations.

This article is one of 11 highlighting this year’s winners of the ULI Global Awards for Excellence.