City councilors are expected to approve on Monday a contract worth nearly $1.5 million that will transform a piece of blighted property in the Depot District into a green space for public gatherings. 

The Depot Green is a project that began to take shape in 2017 that got a boost from the Muskogee Area Arts Council after it received a $10,000 grant from the Oklahoma Arts Council. The collaborative project is backed by public-private partnerships and multiple funding sources that include an $800,000 grant from the City of Muskogee Foundation, capital improvement project funding, and a grant from Union Pacific Railroad. 

Councilors granted preliminary approval on Monday for a base bid worth nearly $1.25 million to Williams Contracting during their Finance Committee meeting. They approved alternates worth almost another $249,000 if a funding source is identified within 90 days of the contractor being given notice to proceed with the work. 

Parks and Recreation Director Mark Wilkerson has described the Depot Green as Muskogee's version of Guthrie Green, a popular public gathering space in Tulsa’s Brady Arts District. It also will extend Centennial Trail and serve as a trailhead, providing parking for trail users. 

"This is an area that has become blighted and will be reclaimed as a destination for the downtown Depot District," Wilkerson said. "The Depot Green will become an outdoor gathering place for large group activities" and provide space for "both private and public events." 

Depot Green will extend west from Main Street to the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. Because the area will extend the city’s trail system and serve as a trailhead, Wilkerson said the project is eligible for Oklahoma Department of Transportation grants. 

Applications for those grants have been made with hopes of funding the additional projects that are not included as part of the base bid. Those alternate projects include restrooms. Wilkerson and city councilors appeared to be in agreement that a funding source would be identified for that project regardless of whether the city is awarded a transportation grant. 

The contract will be presented Monday for final approval during the next regular meeting of the Muskogee City Council. Because it passed with unanimous support in committee, it likely will be included as part of the consent agenda and approved without additional discussion.   

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