MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

June 22, 2013

Homes to be part of renewal area

Urban Renewal Authority to allow residential development

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Muskogee Urban Renewal Authority Commissioners revised their initial decision to limit an area targeted for redevelopment to commercial and light industrial plans.

Commissioners decided to allow residential infill development in the southeast corner of the urban renewal area after a developer pitched his plans Wednesday. The proposed development would include the construction of 34 single-family homes within a six-square-block area.

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 where mixed-income residential development would be allowed is bounded by Chicago and Carroll streets on the east and west and Martin and Talladega streets on the north and south.

MRE Capital co-founder Daniel Sailler initially proposed developing a similar sized area two blocks west. City administrators balked, saying residential development within that area would jeopardize plans for commercial development.

“The problem I see is if you extend past here, that would impact the potential growth of commercial development we are looking at,” Planning Director Gary Garvin said, pointing to a map to identify Martin Street as a northern boundary. “I can see a problem with that. It would limit any type of shopping center or big-box store.”

Sailler’s company developed the Timber Creek Addition, a community of 21 duplexes located northwest of Talladega and 17th streets. Sailler said the proposed development within the urban renewal area would provide opportunities to income-qualified applicants for eventual home ownership.

“This is a community we are building, where people take pride in their property,” Sailler said, noting the location was chosen because of its proximity to jobs and services. “We try to educate these families to homeowners instead of renters.”

During his pitch to commissioners, Sailler said his proposal is more than “the hope” city officials have for commercial development within the area. It’s a plan, Sailler said, with many components already in place.

City Manager Greg Buckley, who balked at Sailler’s initial proposal, said commercial developers contact city and county officials weekly about acquiring property within the urban renewal area.

“The viability of commercial development (in this area) is more than a hope, it’s a step away from reality,” Buckley said. “We really haven’t identified any residential projects, so this would be a change of scope in our projects.”

The joint venture between MRE Capital and Gardner Capital would provide rental housing to income-qualified families with an option to buy the home after 15 years. Development, which would include a community park and 34 three-bedroom, two-bathroom homes, is contingent upon an award from the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency of affordable housing tax credits.

The federal tax credit program offers reduced tax liabilities to property owners in exchange for providing quality housing at fixed rental rates. The amount of rent is based on pre-set income limits in the area where the units are located.

Sailler will be asking city councilors to sign a resolution of support for the project when they meet Monday.

If the joint venture is awarded affordable housing tax credits, which would be announced in November, construction could begin next spring.

Sailler said the infill development would spur additional development within the designated area for residential development.

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