Three Statewide Business And Development Stories We're Watching This Week
A Tulsa tax package will be up for renewal by voters this fall, but with a new twist.
Vision2025, a Tulsa County tax plan similar to Oklahoma City’s MAPS project, is a 0.6 percent sales tax passed in 2003. Since then, it has raised over $600 million for various community projects.
But this year, cities affected by the tax plan have the chance to opt out, says Journal Record managing editor Adam Brooks.
“This time the cities vote separately on same date. The cities that don’t pass it won’t collect the tax, and they won’t get a voice in how it’s spent,” Brooks said.
The Journal Record’s D. Ray Tuttle reports that the tax plan will be customized for each community. This gives communities along the Arkansas River a chance to complete some much-needed development.
It is a chance to make improvements that will last for generations to come, Tulsa City Councilman G.T. Bynum said. “And, it will allow us to overcome the failed efforts for a half a century to put water in the river,” Bynum said. There are plans to build four low-water dams in the river at Sand Springs, Tulsa, Jenks and Bixby. The lakes created are expected to spur development along the river. “This allows each city along the river to pay for the low-water dams and not ask other communities to pay the price for it,” Bynum said.
Park Avenue Prosperity?
A new study found that the time was right for major investment and renovation of Park Avenue in downtown Oklahoma City.
The Journal Record’s Brian Brus reports that, according to a joint study by Downtown Works LLC and Kiku Obata & Co., the street’s authenticity and location makes it a prime choice for investment. The study also details challenges the downtown area faces and offers recommendations for future development.
The overview given Tuesday by Ian Colgan, assistant director of the Planning Department, made three other recommendations in addition to organizational coordination: adopt design and signage guidelines to ensure appropriate development, create incentives to attract high-quality tenants, and initiate formal revitalization projects that are likely to provide good returns on investment for property owners. The study found that ground-floor space along Park Avenue is significantly underutilized, with nearly 90 percent of the primary frontage either vacant or being used for nonretail purposes. The rehabilitation of the landmark First National Center must be a priority, since it includes about 20 percent of that valuable space. The authors suggested that would likely involve a public-private partnership.
The First National Center plays a particularly important role in Park Avenue’s future, Brooks says, and the building’s uncertain future needs to be resolved quickly.
“Retailers on the first floor aren’t sure what their lease status is, people upstairs with offices aren’t sure what their lease status is," Brooks said. "That’s 20 percent of the space along Park Avenue and no one really knows what’s going to happen with it in the future."
The study also suggests providing small grants and forgivable loans for facade rehabilitation and interior renovations.
Sprouting Soccer Scene
The Oklahoma City Energy FC will soon kick off its second season, but the team, coaching staff and front office are calling it season 1, version 2.0.
The soccer club, which last year played its home games at Bishop McGuiness Catholic High School’s Pribil Stadium, is moving to the newly renovated Taft Stadium. The new venue boasts 7,000 seats, compared to 3,500 at McGuiness.
“They’re also going to have more concession stands and this year they’re going to have beer, which is a big deal for a lot of soccer fans,” Brooks said.
The one experience missing from this year’s Energy game will be the march from the 51st Street Speakeasy. During the last season, fans would meet at the bar and follow a bass drummer down to the stadium. Ewing said he and the rest of the management are still developing that tradition. The area around Taft Stadium is surrounded by churches, schools and residential neighborhoods. “I think as we continue to grow, and the renovation and development (at May Avenue and 23rd Street) continue to grow, our opening experience will continue to grow,” he said.
The team’s first home game of the season is Saturday, April 18.
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