MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

July 3, 2014

Renewal authority requests proposals

Commission to hear plans for developing area

Urban Renewal Authority commissioners approved a request for proposals from parties interested in developing all or parts of a blighted area in northwest Muskogee targeted for redevelopment.

They set out an aggressive timeline with the goal of seeing the completion of retail development before the Christmas holiday shopping season begins next year. Pursuant to the schedule, proposals must be submitted by Sept. 9, and commissioners could begin finalizing development agreements by Sept. 26.

Planning Director Gary Garvin said the proposals, once received, will be reviewed by members of a retail development team citizen advisory committee. Commissioners could begin the process of appointing members of the advisory committee, which is expected to include someone who lives or owns property within the urban renewal area, when they meet July 16.

Four factors will be used to score proposals submitted by prospective developers. Those factors include the proposed use or type of development, development and management team, time frame of the development proposed, and the purchase price.

“If there is a proposal that stands out and we feel it is in the best interest of the city to accept that proposal and it meets all the requirements, we can automatically accept that proposal and recommend it forward,” Garvin said, noting oral presentations also may be required. “If they do call them in ... then they (committee members) will rank them again and make a recommendation for City Council.”

The area designated for urban renewal is bounded by Chicago and 11th streets on the east and west and Shawnee Bypass and Talladega Street on the north and south. The area has been divided into three project areas that would allow for big-box retail development and infill commercial growth along with residential options to help support local employment goals.

The proposed timeline would have set a finalization date of Sept. 30, but City Manager Howard Brown Jr. and Mayor Bob Coburn argued for an earlier date. They said a 60-day time frame may be too long for serious developers, many of whom already have Muskogee’s urban renewal plans on their radars and the capability to quickly churn out a proposal.

“These folks respond quickly to these kinds of things,” Brown said. “I think if you go past 60 days ... it’s a long time ... to see what we are going to get and see if we are going to get the interest.”

Coburn said a longer response time could delay development by a full year because retail developers might miss the 2015 holiday shopping season. He argued the proposed timeline wasted a week of valuable time.

Ward IV Councilor Wayne Johnson recognized the importance of time is of the essence, but argued against being to hasty. He placed a greater priority on the quality of the proposals.

“There are some things you push and there are some things you don’t push,” said Johnson, whose ward encompasses the urban renewal area. “This is one of those things that you just have too much going on there ... and this too important to the city of Muskogee and too important to the residents of Ward IV.”

Urban Renewal Commissioner Robert Goolsby offered a compromise that moved the deadline for responses forward by 12 days and for finalization by four days. The timeline approved also gives retail team and advisory committee members additional time to evaluate the proposals.

“My biggest concern about the date is we give the citizen committee enough time to make a qualified decision,” Goolsby said, citing his experience with the learning curve after he was appointed to the authority. “We need to be careful on the back end. They (committee members) are going to be thrown into a lion’s pit.”

The Muskogee Urban Renewal Authority regularly meets at 10 a.m. on the third Wednesday of each month in the second-floor conference room at City Hall.

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

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