CUSHING, Oklahoma - More than a year after a magnitude 5 earthquake rocked downtown Cushing, the city is on the road to revitalization. The community just received a Quality Communities grant from the Oklahoma Municipal League.

Much of the damage from the November 2016 earthquake is still apparent, but that is all about to change. Cushing is one of the first six recipients of the OML's new grant in partnership with OU. Architecture students from the university will plan the historic communities' redevelopment, free of charge. The other awardees are Blanchard, Enid, Norman, Vinita and Wagoner.

“Recently in Oklahoma, we finally figured out that we need to preserve our history,” OML executive director Mike Fina said. “We’ve been really bad about tearing everything down, and people realize there are some very significant things, significant architecture here in the state, and you find it in rural Oklahoma.”

The partnership allows the graduate students to get hands-on experience, but it also provides cities like Cushing a service they normally couldn't afford.

Fina said, “We work with every municipality in the state, and OU was looking for a way to find those unique projects, so it just really fit.”

President of the Downtown Cushing Revitalization Association Marilyn Duff said, “It’s wonderful to have these people come back and say, ‘I love these buildings downtown. You have such an inventory, good inventory of buildings.’ We just need to see that we can keep those buildings. We’re losing too many right now.”

The DCRA has been working to revive the Pipeline Crossroads of the World for years, but there are currently more than 50 unoccupied business spaces downtown, and the earthquake made matters worse.

“There’s been a lot of challenges from that, in itself,” said Michael Kennedy, co-chair of the new Reimagine Downtown Cushing project. “We have a lot of historical buildings, buildings that were not meant to, built to take an earthquake.”

A year later, tarps still cover roofs and stacks of fallen bricks line the streets, but new renderings from the OU students show a long-term vision for the future, with a streetscape that includes bike paths, intersection improvements and inviting public green spaces, all designed around the historic elements that are the city's legacy.

Kennedy said, “When you engage those young minds and look at things in a little bit different way than what we may be used to seeing, it just kind of opens the door a little bit.”

The grant partnership does not include contracting services, just the planning phase. The cost for construction will be left to the cities, but OML will provide assistance connecting them with the right people for the job.

Communities can start applying for next year’s round of grants in late January. Connect with the Oklahoma Municipal League by clicking here.