ATKINSON PLAZA
Southeast 29th Street and Mid-America Boulevard
Midwest City, Oklahoma

Noteworthy as the model for many post-World War II suburban developments in America, Midwest City, Oklahoma sprang from former wheat fields in the years during and immediately after the global conflict of the 1940s.

William Paul ("Bill") Atkinson became privy to information concerning a prospective Army Air Corps base that was to be located in the environs of Oklahoma City. Taking advantage of the situation, he began secretly purchasing land on the east side the capital in 1941, near a large expanse of property he felt would be perfect for the new air terminal.

His hunch was on the mark. The Midwest Air Depot was indeed built on the site he had selected. The adjacent 200 acres he acquired would be expanded and developed as a residential community for servicemen and their families. The project would be named Midwest City, as a homage to the new Midwest Air Depot. Construction on its first homes commenced in April 1942.

The planned city was designed by Seward Mott, Director of the Federal Housing Administration's Land Planning Division. It featured curvilinear residential streets and cul-de-sacs, all separated from the straight-line, broad thoroughfares that carried residents to and from the air base.

Oklahoma's trendsetting planned community received a great deal of coverage from the press. It was incorporated, as Midwest City, March 11, 1943. The name of the Midwest Air Depot was officially changed to Tinker Air Force Base January 13, 1948. However, Midwest City retained its original moniker.

Amenities for suburban life, such as schools and churches, were provided as the city developed. Moreover, a center city shopping hub was built. Known as ATKINSON PLAZA, it was developed by W.P. and H.B. Atkinson and designed by Bruce W. Berry. It was situated on a 22.1 acre parcel located 6.8 miles southeast of the Oklahoma State House.

The complex, which would eventually consist of West Plaza and East Plaza semicircular sections, was built in stages. The first, encompassing eight stores and services, was completed between May and August of 1943.

In this original group of tenants were the American State Bank, Bomber Inn Cafe, Conrad-Marr Drug Company, Midwest City Beauty & Barber Shop, Bill's Fine Pastries, Mills Cleaners, the (9,300 square foot) Humpty Dumpty Supermarket and (5,300 square foot) T.G. & Y. 5 & 10.

The East Plaza section was completed before most of the West Plaza. The Skytrain Theatre, a 972 seat venue, showed its first feature November 3, 1944.

Its completion -as part of the East Plaza- was accompanied by a U.S. Post Office, Olive Dyer Dress Shop, Midwest Furniture, Phillips 66 Super Service Station, Tubb Rexall Drug, C.R. Anthony Company, Buster Brown Shoes, (22,500 square foot) Stockton's Dry Goods and an upper level of office suites. By late 1944, there were eighteen stores and services in operation.

Progress on the construction of the West Plaza included a structure for the Midwest Motor Company, which was completed in July 1945. It stood at the west end of the ATKINSON PLAZA complex, separate from the eastern section of the West Plaza.

By 1953, the area between the two had been filled in. The fully-realized West Plaza housed a dry-goods-only J.C. Penney and new location for the T.G. & Y. 5 & 10. With all construction completed, ATKINSON PLAZA encompassed approximately 170,000 leasable square feet.

Plans for the Tinker Diagonal, an expressway to connect Midwest City and Oklahoma City, were announced in March 1954. The first segment of the thoroughfare ran in an east-west configuration (.9 of a mile south of ATKINSON PLAZA) and opened to traffic March 18, 1962. Before its completion, it had been incorporated into the route of Interstate 40.

In October 1978, the next major development in the life and times of ATKINSON PLAZA occurred. HERITAGE PARK MALL {1.9 miles northwest, in Midwest City} opened for business and, for a time, was the major shopping venue in the area.

The name of the city's original retail hub was changed to DOWNTOWN TINKER PLAZA, with its facade being given a facelift. The complex began to decline in the 1980s. By the late 1990s, it had become a rundown and virtually vacant property.

Midwest City, under the auspices of the Midwest Hospital Authority, joined forces with OKC-based Sooner Investment to redevelop the "dilapidated commercial structures" that now stood at the gateway to the community. A total of 83 acres were acquired. This included the entirety of ATKINSON (DOWNTOWN TINKER) PLAZA and one hundred and eighty-two single family homes in its vicinity.

The final operational tenant at the city's World War II-vintage shopping center closed in December 2002. The wrecking ball was brought in in June 2003. By December, the PLAZA was gone. Lowe's Home Improvement and Target were announced, as the first tenants of a new power center complex, in February 2004.

TOWN CENTER PLAZA would be implemented in three phases. The first, including a (116,000 square foot) Lowe's, (125,000 square foot) Target and (88,400 square foot) Kohl's, were dedicated in 2005-2006. The second phase, with a (97,400 square foot) J.C. Penney, (30,000 square foot) Best Buy and two (61,000 square foot) East Shops and West Shops structures, was completed in 2007.

Phase Three, including a (20,000 square foot) PetSmart, (10,000 square foot) Ulta Beauty and (98,500 square foot) Dick's Sporting Goods, was dedicated between 2008 and 2012.

Today, the 40 million dollar power plaza proper encompasses 748,600 leasable square feet and fifty stores and services. Its eleven outparcel structures include Santa Fe Cattle Company, Chilli's Bar & Grill, Steak & Shake, Qboba Mexican Grill, Firestone Tire and Old Chicago Pasta & Pizza. 

Sources:

"Midwest City" article on Wikipedia
The Journal Record
http://www.flickr.com/photos/whitechipmunk/1434051638/in/set-72157602144303459/  White Chipmunk's Photostream / Atkinson Heritage Center
"Final Report Reconnaissance Level Architectural Survey of the Original Mile" - City of Midwest City / August 31, 1992
http://digital.library.okstate.edu
http://newsok.com
http://digitalprairie.ok.gov
http://www.parisprojects.com
http://www.soonerinvestment.com

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