With a mix of art studios, breweries, restaurants, a historic theater and non-mainstream retail, Kendall Whittier is a unique experience. There is something for everyone in this funky corner of Tulsa.
As one of seven Oklahoma Certified Cultural Districts by the Oklahoma Arts Council, the neighborhood houses Tulsa’s oldest independent theater, art studios and classes, music venues, a production studio and print studios in addition to several other locally-owned businesses such as vintage store, independent bookstore, bridal boutique and a science shop.
Foodies flock to Kendall Whittier for a diverse range of restaurant choices. As a hub of Hispanic culture, Kendall Whittier offers some of the best Mexican food in Tulsa with a Mexican grill, a food truck or a bakery in the heart of Whittier Square. Other popular choices include a local coffee roaster, a classic hamburger stand, a Lebanese café or a modern twist on the traditional Jewish deli.
Kendall Whittier is Tulsa’s unofficial brewery district. Within one square block, two breweries – with a third in the middle of a renovation – are nestled in with a cidery and distillery. Closer to the square, one brewery delights guests in an old automobile garage, and a Phillip 66 Station has been turned into patio bar.
But it wasn’t always this way.
Whittier Square was Tulsa’s first suburban shopping district. Along the original alignment of Route 66, businesses popped up in the late 1920s and the neighborhood thrived for decades. However, the future of Whittier Square was inexorably altered when an 8-lane interstate highway bisected the neighborhood in 1967. The neighborhood went into a freefall that lasted more than four decades.
Enter: Kendall Whittier Main Street
The 501(c)3 nonprofit organization started in 2010. Volunteers and staff rolled their sleeves up and got to work to transform the seedy “red light” district of Tulsa. We are one of 32 Main Street programs in the state of Oklahoma and among the approximately 800 programs accredited by the National Main Street Center. Transformation is made possible through National’s proven Four Point Approach.
With 36 new businesses opening since 2013, occupancy in Whittier Square now stands at 100%. Throughout the greater Kendall Whittier district, another 13 new businesses have opened. In all, Kendall Whittier Main Street (KWMS) has seen a total of 292 jobs created and $140 million private dollars reinvested.
KWMS hosts 20 events annually to reflect the diverse character of the neighborhood. Events include a monthly After Five on the second Thursday of the month from May through October, the bimonthly Mercado on the first and third Saturday of the month during the same duration and the Kendall Whittier Art Festival each Spring.
KWMS – nestled in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Tulsa – fulfills its mission to promote and restore Kendall Whittier as a thriving, walkable and welcoming community for living and working, by providing leadership and volunteer opportunities for all who want to participate in the district’s revitalization.
In efforts to rehabilitate historic properties, bring in new businesses and support the city’s economic base, Kendall Whittier Main Street never loses sight of the individuals. KWMS is dedicated to maintaining an affordable district instead of pricing people out. This is what makes Kendall Whittier so special – progress without marginalization.
We welcome you to download our 2017-18 Annual Report to learn more about KWMS activities and accomplishments. Or review our organizational vision for Kendall Whittier’s future.
For more information on the Oklahoma Main Street Program, visit the Oklahoma Department of Commerce website.