Concerns arise over Urban Renewal Authority efforts to obtain land for the future MAPS 3 convention center.
BY CLIFTON ADCOCK
The Oklahoma City Planning Commission has delayed for 60 days a measure that would allow the city’s Urban Renewal Authority (OCURA) to proceed with obtaining the site for the future MAPS 3 convention center.
Even before that Sept. 13 action, the commission already had tabled the resolution once before, in August, because members said they hadn’t been given enough information on it.
The measure seeks to amend the Core to Shore Urban Renewal Plan so that it encompasses the proposed area for the $252 million MAPS 3 convention center. The site is just outside the plan’s current boundaries, west of the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The land in question is the former Fred Jones automobile dealership across Reno Avenue from the Myriad Botanical Gardens. Under state law, OCURA must obtain the property for it to be subject to private development.
Currently, the Core to Shore Urban Renewal Plan’s land acquisition area encompasses much of the MAPS 3 downtown park site as well as “buffer zone” land surrounding the park. That buffer zone, in turn, will be used for businesses or other development.
The site for the convention center was selected after a lengthy process by the MAPS 3 Convention Center Subcommittee and was then approved by the City Council.
During last week’s Planning Commission meeting, however, commission members said they had not been briefed on the convention center’s relationship to other developments and projects, such as the planned downtown boulevard and MAPS 3 park.
“These projects have basically been developed in silos, each one separate from the other,” said John Yoeckel, commission chairman.
Concerns from commissioners
Other commissioners said OCURA had not responded to their Aug. 9 request for more information about the planned acquisition of land area, including property west of the planned convention center site, located between Hudson and Walker avenues.
“This whole thing,” said Commissioner Nick Gales, holding up the report submitted by OCURA, “is primarily study-related and is nonresponsive to what we asked. Why did we get it?” Cathy O’Connor, manager of OCURA and president of the Alliance for Economic Development, said land between Hudson and Walker was for the convention center’s expansion, which had been approved by the MAPS 3 Convention Center Subcommittee.
Commissioner Bob Bright complained that the commission was in the dark on many aspects of plans for the area. He suggested a meeting and explanation session for the convention center site before proceeding further.
“Here it is ... and there’s not been one meeting scheduled [since Aug. 9] where we could have a back-and-forth discussion,” Bright said. “I thought there would be a study session or something scheduled so the planning commissioners could understand what is going on.”
This whole thing is primarily study-related and non-responsive.
The commission voted unanimously to table the resolution.
In related actions, the panel approved a measure amending the Central Business District Urban Renewal Plan to include acquisition of Santa Fe Station. The change will let OCURA purchase the train station for a future intermodal transit hub.
Located at 50 E.K. Gaylord Blvd., the depot was previously selected as the spot for the intermodal hub, which will serve several forms of transportation, including the MAPS 3 downtown streetcar. The streetcar project includes money for the hub in its budget.
The purchase of the station by OCURA, rather than by the city, allows for future private development adjacent to the station, O’Connor said.