What makes a A neighborhood? Is it the boundaries, considered by city planners and laid out—streets snapped together and avenues aligned—giving geographical definition to a place? Is it the buildings, the edifices erected long ago or just last month, and the collective accumulation of moments in time both within and outside their walls? Or is it the bodies—the men, women, and children whose entire lives can be circumscribed by the surroundings but also transcend them? Like much in life, the answer is complicated. Take a neighborhood like Tulsa’s Kendall Whittier, which is defined by all three.
Over the last five years, the neighborhood, home to a mix of retail, recreational, and residential properties two miles east of downtown Tulsa, has undergone a startling transformation. However, in reflecting upon its past, its present, and its future, reclamation might be a more apt description of what’s taking place there. What once was stained with iniquity in decades prior—adult movie theaters, strip clubs, and the like—now gleams anew, bustling with bookstores, coffee shops, craft breweries, and open-air markets.
“Anyone who hasn’t been to this area in a long time is floored,” says Jessica Jackson, executive director of Kendall Whittier Main Street. “Either people really know what the area is and exactly which businesses are there, and they come often, or they still don’t know. The ones