MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

January 21, 2013

Site at key crossroads appraised at $1.03 million

County has tract valued after purchase inquiry

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Court-appointed appraisers attached a value of more than $1.03 million — $4 a square foot — to a nearly six-acre tract of land owned by the county.

The parcel, which has attracted the interest of a Tulsa real estate brokerage and development group, is at the southwest corner of U.S. 69 and West Shawnee Bypass.

County commissioners initiated efforts to establish a price for the commercially attractive property in August after they were contacted by Perry R. Dunham. After establishing the legal description, commissioners approved a resolution Dec. 31, asking the court to appoint three appraisers to establish a fair market value. The appraisers’ report was filed Friday.

Dunham, who did not respond to inquiries last week, said in September that he was “not at liberty to discuss” development plans or disclose the identity of his clients or any prospective buyers. City Manager Greg Buckley, however, said any development at the intersection likely would include retail of some sort.

In 2011, QuikTrip Corp. expressed interest in buying property owned by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation on the northwest corner of the intersection. The Tulsa corporation shied away after the state agency set the starting bid price at $6 to $7 a square foot for two parcels — each about half the size of the county-owned tract.

Mike Thornbrugh, a QuikTrip spokesman, said the company “has explored interest in expanding to Muskogee.” At present, he said, the company does “not have any location under contract.”

District 1 Commissioner Gene Wallace said the board has tried to deal “at arm’s length” with any potential transaction of county-owned property at the intersection, the  second-busiest in the city. Wallace said the next move rests with city officials, who have exhibited “a great deal of interest” in the progress regarding the appraisal.

Buckley declined to provide specifics about any parties interested in the site but said the city regularly receives calls from people who would like to develop the northwestern Muskogee intersection. Development has been delayed in part because the property ownership is “all cut up in checkerboard” parcels and because of the price established by ODOT for the tracts it owns, he said.

“The appraisal (for the southwest corner) falls within the range of other properties out in that area,” Buckley said. “I am waiting for the first project that starts moving dirt to see ... if that starts the domino effect for other development.”

Shawn Raper, a local real estate broker and chairman of the Muskogee Planning Commission, said the appraised value of the county-owned land “seems like a fair number” and maybe “a little lower than some other property” in the area. But he said the price a developer might be willing to pay would depend a number of other factors.

“You will certainly find some higher asking prices along there, but you also have an elevation problem — it’s a little low at that location — so you have to factor that into it as well,” he said. “What is really hard to factor is the costs of getting it ready to build — all it takes is money.”

Wallace said he believes the county-owned tracts on the southwest corner — 10 altogether — were acquired in 1955 through eminent domain for a state transportation project but were never used for that purpose. They have been idle since.

Wallace said the county also owns other property at the intersection, which is considered by some as prime commercial real estate. A deal to purchase county property on the northwest corner fell through a year ago because of complications regarding access. The county also owns property on the other two corners of the intersection.

Wallace said other parcels within the vicinity have been appraised by various stakeholders, but the values varied significantly.

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