MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

October 21, 2013

Foundation OKs two key transactions

Grant to fund razing of Hunt’s building; loan to pay for US 69 intersection land

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— City of Muskogee Foundation directors approved two measures Monday that could change the landscape in two parts of the city.

Directors approved an economic development grant worth up to $250,000 for Eastern Oklahoma Land Acquisition Co. The limited liability company intends to use the money to buy and demolish the former Hunt’s Department Store Building downtown.

Foundation directors also approved a $4.5 million loan to the Muskogee Redevelopment Authority. The authority plans to acquire county-owned land at the U.S. 69 and Shawnee Bypass intersection.

Eastern Oklahoma Land Acquisition Co. was created by the foundation two years ago to buy, sell and hold real property. Frank Merrick, the foundation’s executive director, said the acquisition of the downtown structure is the company’s first purchase.

The Hunt’s building, considered at one time an anchor for downtown businesses, has declined into a state of disrepair. David Garrett, whose family owns the downtown landmark, recently acknowledged problems with its exterior but said an engineer’s report shows the building is structurally sound and asbestos free.

Merrick said: “The building needs to come down. It is going to be a green space, that is the plan.”

Foundation board Chairman Earnie Gilder said the holding company will buy the downtown building for $65,000. It will cost an additional $123,000 to tear it down, fill in the basement and raise it to grade. The same company hired to raze the former S.H. Kress and Bully Good Saddle Shop buildings will perform the Hunt’s demolition.

With regard to the $4.5 million loan, Mayor Bob Coburn said the five-year investment will give the authority an opportunity to get that land ready for development. The prospect of developing the intersection has produced a lot of activity during the past year.

County commissioners earlier this year sold a six-acre tract on the southwest corner of the intersection to the Muskogee Redevelopment Authority. That corner, which was purchased for $826,596, or 80 percent of its appraised value of $4 per square foot, is under contract to be sold to QuikTrip Corp.

Commissioners have agreed to sell the remaining 29.3 acres the county owns on the northwest, northeast and southeast corners at the same discounted price. The total sales price for the property, which Interim City Manager Roy Tucker said will result in  18.38 acres for commercial development, would be almost $4.09 million.

Coburn said the balance of the money from the loan, financed by the foundation at an interest rate of 2.5 percent, would be used to get the properties ready for development. Coburn said he knows of nobody who has expressed an immediate interest in developing those properties, but he expects that to change as soon as QuikTrip starts moving dirt on the southwest corner.

“We don’t have presently, but we would have big signs up immediately saying, ‘Ready for development,’” Coburn said about luring prospective developers to the site. “As soon as you see dirt being moved on QuikTrip’s corner, you are going to see activity.”

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.