Cordell, Oklahoma

Oklahoma | 1999 Great American Main Street Award® Winner | Posted: 10/18/2008

Since 1993, the town of Cordell, Okla., (pop. 2,903) has experienced a renaissance. From comprehensive aesthetic improvements to innovative programs designed to assist businesses, Main Street Cordell, Inc., has been the leading catalyst in the rebirth of main street.

In the mid-1980s, Cordell experienced an economic collapse when three locally owned banks and a savings and loan closed. Oklahoma’s agricultural and oil bust precipitated not only an economic depression, but also a crisis in confidence. The residents of Cordell needed a vision for the future.

Main Street Cordell became the vehicle for restoring not only the community’s economy, but also its spirit. The program, with its legion of volunteers, inspired a rebirth in commerce and confidence. The community’s astounding renewal can be measured by several recently completed achievements, including successful completion of a $1.25-million downtown streetscape project, which was funded through ISTEA. The main street facelift involved 14 linear blocks with 5,600 feet of new sidewalks, period streetlights, and new water lines.

An adaptive-use project, Florence House on the Square, converted a hospital and dry goods store into moderately priced housing for the elderly. The $1.3-million project created 20 apartments, along with a beauty shop and hospital museum in the building. The success of Florence House has spurred other downtown housing, turning Cordell into a 24-hour downtown.

Another important building project transformed a former tire shop and filling station into a state-of-the-art, 6,500-square foot police complex. Although the city only spent $125,000 for the redevelopment, the project has been appraised at $275,000. Among its amenities, the building houses a precinct room, with large windows overlooking the courthouse square, that is constantly booked by the community.

Centennial Park on the Square, a $175,000 public improvement project taken on by the city, is another of Cordell’s successes. The Main Street Brick Sales Committee was organized to raise funds for the park improvement and netted $85,000 in a year and a half.

In just five years, Cordell’s sales tax revenues have shown an average annual increase of $62,000. Public- and private-sector investment has totaled $4.6 million, which includes 42 storefront restorations, 45 building rehabilitations, and 28 buildings sold in the downtown historic district. The number of new or expanded businesses downtown has reached a total of 55, with a net increase of 84 new jobs. Except for the founding and development of the city from 1897 to 1920, the five-year period from 1993 to 1998 has seen the largest public- and private-sector projects in Cordell’s history.

This small, tenacious farming community embodies the very spirit of America’s western pioneers. With resilience, faith, and true determination, the people of Cordell have proudly rebuilt their home on the prairie.