Ward 7 Councilman John Pettis outlined a proposal for NE 23rd Street, between Lincoln Boulevard and Interstate 35, that includes a $20 million mixed-use development anchored by a new Buy For Less grocery store.
The council’s unanimous vote will create a review committee that will develop a detailed plan. A designation of blight will be needed from the council in order to establish a tax increment financing district (TIF) that will use sales tax revenue to assist private development.
The city has created eight TIF districts over the past 15 years – including downtown and the boathouse district – and the council appeared to agree that northeast Oklahoma City is a region that more than qualifies for the tax incentive tool.
“I can’t think of a better example of [a TIF project] than what councilman Pettis is proposing for northeast Oklahoma City,” City Manager Jim Couch said. “This is probably the type of project they had in mind when they did the TIF legislation.”
Councilman Ed Shadid voted in support of the project, but he expressed concern that urban renewal projects in the past have been known to create more challenges for minority residents, especially through the use of eminent domain.
Pettis said homes would not be touched by the city but acknowledged that there are some dilapidated commercial buildings that might need to be addressed.
“Urban renewal left a very bad taste in the community’s mouth [in the past],” Pettis said. “We are not touching residential properties. But there are some commercial properties that are eyesores. We deserve something better than what we have.”
Pettis said the proposed development would bring Ward 7’s first full-service grocery store, along with affordable housing for families and additional office and retail space.
“This is the beginning of a process,” Pettis said. “More conversation will take place to create a true partnership in northeast Oklahoma City.”