There are more than 12,000 abandoned properties throughout the city, according to a 2013 study conducted by GSBS Richman Consulting.
The report’s authors say vacant and abandoned properties can reduce real estate values by 12 to 29 percent, or an estimated $2.7 billion total loss to Oklahoma City.
City Planner Matt Gabrielson said he and a delegation of seven community leaders are attending the Community Progress Leadership Institute’s (CPLI) national training program to find solutions to help fix the problem and prevent future loss. OKC is one of eight municipalities across the nation to receive an invitation.
“They invited Oklahoma City and a variety of municipalities to apply for the event,” Gabrielson said. “We were asked to apply because of our … good work on the issues to date. [The invitation] to apply was given before the study was even published.”
Joining him are Oklahoma City Council members Meg Salyer and Larry McAtee, Oklahoma County Assessor Leonard Sullivan, OKC Metropolitan Association of Realtors President Nels Peterson, commercial real estate broker Jim Parrack and municipal counselor Laura Codopony.
CPLI is a four-day comprehensive program designed to teach leaders how to turn vacant properties into beneficial commodities for the community, Gabrielson said. It is sponsored by the Center for Community Progress and will be March 18-21 at Harvard Law School in Boston.
Classes also will include market analysis, reuse planning, delinquent tax enforcement reform, strategic code enforcement and land banking. Gabrielson said the program is beneficial because city planners can learn from how things are done in other major cities.
“It’s an issue that is affecting cities nationwide. Lots of cities are doing something about it, and Oklahoma City is trying to deal with it in our own context,” Gabrielson said. “My goal is to bring proponents and opponents together … to work together to move this thing forward.”
Tamar Shapiro, CPLI president, agreed.
“When these eight teams enter the CPLI classroom on the first day, their stories will illuminate how blight is impacting communities across the United States,” Shapiro said in a media statement. “And when they head back home, there will be a new chapter to write: how they’re part of a national movement to reclaim our communities, a movement that is forging new connections and sparking fresh ideas.”
Other cities sending representatives include Wilmington, Del.; Springfield, Mass.; Battle Creek, Mich.; Detroit; Jackson, Miss.; Huntington, W. Va.; and Milwaukee.
Community Progress chose cities based on “population from 50,000 to over half a million and have citywide vacancy rates of 10-29 percent, while also facing high rates of foreclosure, tax delinquency and other property challenges,” according to a media release.