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OKC Expects Increased Economic Benefits From Innovation District Development

City and state entities are considering developing Oklahoma City's Innovation District into a research hub. Journal Record editor Russell Ray discusses the project's potential $1.2 billion economic impact and how it could create 6,600 new jobs while strengthening nearby neighborhoods, parks and schools.


Full Transcript:

Richard Bassett: You're listening to the Business Intelligence Report a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I'm Richard Bassett, and joining me is Russell Ray, editor of The Journal Record. Thanks for joining me, Russell.

Russell Ray: It's good to be here, Richard. Thanks for having me.

Bassett: Today, I'd like to discuss the Oklahoma City Innovation District, which is located in east Oklahoma City between Lincoln Boulevard and I-235. It includes the Oklahoma Health Science Center and state Capitol areas. Journal Record reporter Brian Brus writes that city and state entities are considering developing the Innovation District into a dense, active and well-connected mixed-use environment.

Ray: Well, that's right, Richard. A development plan for the Innovation District has been in the works for some time. The plan was recently unveiled and it includes a mix of office and laboratory space, hotel and residential development, and retail shops and restaurants. A core area is also planned around Stiles Park, which includes an Innovation Hall similar to designs in St. Louis and Boston, where research specialists, entrepreneurs and students can get together and collaborate.

Bassett: So, development of the district is in part supported by and based on a study from the Brookings Institution and Project for Public Spaces.

Ray: Yes. About 500 area residents, workers business owners, and students provided feedback for the study. They pointed to areas in and around the district that are in need of support. Those areas include Jewel Theatre, Douglass High School and Booker T. Washington Park. And the study's results were incorporated into the strategic development planned for the Innovation District.

Bassett: The Northeast 10th Street Bridge over I-235 will also be expanded to include sidewalks, landscaping and public art. All these projects are intended to act as a catalyst for private development in the area, hopefully leading to a significant economic impact for the nearby community, as well as the city.

Ray: Well, that's right. Innovation District President Katy Boren said the goal is to convince people that Oklahoma City is the place for their next big research project. She said they want OKC to be a destination of choice for the next generation of researchers. It's estimated the first two phases of development will have a $1.2 billion economic impact and create 6,600 new jobs with a payroll of $423 million.

Bassett: What kind of jobs will this create?

Ray: It'll create jobs in science and related industries. But some of the jobs won't require a college degree at all. City officials have described the plan as an important step in connecting residents with efforts to transform the district into an "innovation ecosystem."

Bassett: So let's talk about funding. Developing the innovation district was one of the final proposals presented to the Oklahoma City City Council for possible inclusion on MAPS 4. But Cathy O'Connor of the Alliance for Economic Development, which helped fund that Brookings Institution study, says development of the district is important enough to move forward regardless if whether it is backed by the sales tax initiative?

Ray: Well, that's right. O'Connor said MAPS 4 is just one component of a large plan that will move forward with or without MAPS 4 funding. Right now, city officials expect to collect about $120 million a year in sales taxes from MAPS 4. And that equates to nearly $1 billion in sales tax collections over eight years.

Bassett: Russell Ray is editor of The Journal Record. Thanks for speaking with me today, Russell.

Ray: My pleasure. Richard. Thank you.

Bassett: KGOU and the Journal Record collaborate each week on the Business Intelligence Report. Follow us both on social media. We're on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: @journalrecord and @kgounews. For KGOU and the Business Intelligence Report, I'm Richard Basset.

As a community-supported news organization, KGOU relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department.

The Journal Record is a multi-faceted media company specializing in business, legislative and legal news. Print and online content is available via subscription.

Music provided by Midday Static

Richard is a graduate of The Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Arizona. He spent three years working for Studiomedia Recording Company in Chicago, where he furthered his audio engineering education. After one too many battles with the snow and the cold, Richard returned home and enrolled in The University of Oklahoma. He has a bachelor's degree in anthropology and graduate study in Professional Writing.
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