MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

November 12, 2013

New Muskogee Little Theatre, public Wi-Fi top projects

Total cost of all Signature Projects $29.6M

By Travis Sloat
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Tim Faltyn said he can’t go anywhere in Muskogee without someone telling him “what we ought to do” to fix the city.

Faltyn, who is co-chairman of the Action in Muskogee committee, addressed that issue at the AIM Reveal Tuesday night at the Roxy Theater.

“Now’s the time,” Faltyn said. “Tonight is about finding your reason. Great communities are like great people and great moments in your life. You have to work at it.”

The AIM Committee was formed in mid-2012 and is a project of the Muskogee City-County Port Authority to develop a community inspired implementation plan with accountability to improve Muskogee.

That plan was revealed in front of an audience packed into the Roxy. The reveal was the culmination of five public community visioning sessions of more than 370 area residents who aspired to make Muskogee a more vibrant community in which to live, work, learn and play, according to the fact sheet.

The committee came up with eight initial initiatives which were:

• Educational Excellence.

• Safe and Secure Community.

• Strong Economy.

• Community Pride.

• Clean and Beautiful.

• Great Place to Live and Visit.

• Health and Wellness.

• Community Infrastructure.

Several ideas were proposed at the meeting, and two of them which met all eight of the initiatives were a complete renovation of the Muskogee Little Theatre and public Wi-Fi for the city of Muskogee and its residents.

According to the fact sheet, the Muskogee Little Theatre draws audience members from 33 communities and 12 counties. Twenty-seven percent of those audience members travel more than 40 miles to attend, and more than $250,000 has been put into the local economy as a result of theater events.

The renovation of the MLT would be a part of the opening of a cultural district in downtown Muskogee. The new MLT will be a 15,000-square-foot, two-story performing arts facility and will include an upper- and lower-level 260-seat capacity auditorium that will also be wheelchair accessible.

The plan is to complete fundraising by June 2014 for the proposed building, then to secure bids on the project prior to June 2014, when construction is scheduled to begin.

Max Boydstun, a local businessman, said he appreciated the timeline laid out in the reveal.

“The meeting was excellent,” Boydstun said. “It was a glimpse of the future and something we have needed for a long time. I think that a lot has been talked about and those projects that aren’t ready, they will be soon.”

The public Wi-Fi is an economic development and infrastructure important to small and corporate businesses looking to locate and expand, according to the fact sheet. It would also support common and higher education, career technology and make Muskogee a progressive and viable city.

Public Wi-Fi would be made available to everyone and help provide job opportunities to underserved populations, as well as facilitate waves of innovation and brand the city as being technology and business friendly.

The timeline for the public Wi-Fi was listed “as soon as possible,” and the cost as “to be announced.”

The total cost of the Signature Projects revealed at the meeting was $29.6 million, with a total timeline of 12 to 60 months. Faltyn said if you want a better community you have to work for it.

“If we didn’t work hard to raise the money for these projects, then people wouldn’t appreciate all the good things that will happen in the next five years,” Faltyn said.

In addition to the MLT renovation and public Wi-Fi, plans were announced to demolish the Hunt’s Building, improve Muskogee’s streetscape, try to attract a hotel and convention center and improve the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.

Faltyn said it was his goal to have a totally walkable city, meaning one could walk down Fourth Street in Muskogee and have access to shopping, eating and entertainment.

Mayor Bob Coburn said the reveal on Tuesday evening was “absolutely exciting.”

“We’ve recognized where we are,” Coburn said. “And we’ve recognized where we want to go. This is the first plan like this I’ve seen. The projects displayed tonight were doable and will ultimately make Muskogee successful. I want to thank the AIM Committee for all their hard work.”

Coburn also addressed concerns that the work was focused on downtown only.

“The whole project literally has footprints all the way across town,” he said. “There’s been a huge amount of interest expressed on Shawnee Street across from Walmart. We just need to continue to make improvements.”

Wren Stratton commended the vision displayed at the meeting.

“It was awesome,” Stratton said. “It’s a big vision, but you have to have big visions.”

Reach Travis Sloat at (918) 684-2908 or tsloat@muskogeephoenix.com.