Oh Man, Oklahoma’s Voted ‘Ugliest’ Town Hits Home In SWOK
If you've spent any amount of time traveling around Oklahoma in the last ten to fifteen years, you already know that there's a sort of small-town renaissance going on in this part of America.
It all started when a traveling group of mural artists swept through the state, offering their services in every small town they came upon. They would gather input and town history from the locals and paint what they heard somewhere in the seemingly vintage downtown areas.
Soon after, slightly larger towns and big-city-suburbs seized on the idea that revitalizing their dwindling downtown areas might make life there more attractive. Places like Owasso, Broken Arrow, Yukon, and Newcastle put massive efforts into giving their vintage and dying downtown areas a major facelift. Now those areas of each town are somewhat hip and fashionable filled with locally owned businesses and trendy restaurants.
Oddly enough, as the pandemic set in and made working from home the new normal, Millennials started leaving the big urban cities in lieu of much cheaper living costs in small towns all over Oklahoma. In 2022, you'd be surprised how much business some of the region's biggest companies do out of small towns like Marlow, Hollis, Corn, Fairview, Velma, Poteau, Braman, etc... It's been a great thing for these communities.
That being said, there are some old-school smaller towns that are being held back by a never-evolving local government full of entrenched bureaucrats and a stale cast of elected officials.
Even as we've voted for proposals to beautify our city time and time again and have quite possibly the best views of Oklahoma's prettiest vistas, Lawton remains at the top of the list once again voted the ugliest city in all of Oklahoma.
There is something deeply wrong with here and it's not hard to identify.
Sadly, Lawton's historic downtown was torn down to accommodate the Central Mall back in the late 70s. I don't think they tore down a vibrant and bustling downtown, I think I remember reading where there had been a pretty extensive fire that damaged a lot of the buildings but don't quote me on that.
Still, it'd be nice to see the downtown area (including the mall) get a makeover to resemble a classic traditional downtown. I mean, if Liberty National Bank turned its ridiculously ugly building into the gleaming example of classy downtown it is today, anybody can.
As angry as people were when the city slipped a banana in the ballot question tailpipe over the 2020 CIP, promising new roads and to rid the city of eyesore structure but used that money instead to purchase the mall and to build a non-standard sports complex that won't draw in tournament play... there are some that remain optimistic there can be a little beautification in their plans regardless if they fail or succeed.
We have made strides to beautify Lawton, at least under a previous bunch of elected officials... the Skid Row crack den that was 2nd Street used to look like this...
Now that stretch of road looks like this...
Gone are the run-down businesses, on that side of the street anyway. Instead of bodegas and dive bars, it's become pretty uptown with a Hilton and a bunch of discount dollar stores. As restaurants move in and retail bounces back, it'll continue to become a trendy area of Lawton as long as you don't look across the street.
The same can be said for Cache Road. Even if the work and transformations are super slow, every time they build a new business, we almost instantly forget what run-down hot mess used to be there before.
So does Lawton really deserve the title of the "Ugliest City" in Oklahoma?
Yeah. It's fair... at least for now.