Widgets Magazine
  • Police Association plans to proceed with downtown garage plans

    After several years of negotiating with the city and neighbors and after reducing the size of a proposed downtown parking garage, the Oklahoma City Police Association is proceeding with plans as submitted.

    In an exclusive interview with OKCTalk, Ed Hill president of the association said his organization is moving forward with its plans and hopes revisions will be approved on November 16th by the Downtown Design Review Committee.

    The association's previous application was rejected when a group led by attorneys David and Dennis Box claimed both the height and use were inconsistent with development guidelines.

    In response to the concerns, the garage was reduced in height to the minimum mandated by downtown guidelines and resubmitted. Additionally, the previous decision of the committee has been appealed to the Board of Adjustment and will be heard in January.

    Earlier this week, David Box was quoted by the Oklahoman as having submitted an offer to swap a large lot to the south for the property the association plans to develop, stating the desire to save Centennial Park from being bordered by a parking garage.

    However, Hill told OKCTalk this is not a new idea as it has been discussed by the parties over the last several years and it has never interested the the police association as it's larger than their current needs and they have no desire to become developers or landlords. The police association is not planning to respond to the offer by Box.

    Just 3 years ago, the City of Oklahoma City itself constructed a massive 9-story, 830 space parking garage directly south of the recently renovated park to the east of City Hall. Not long thereafter, the Downtown Design Review Committee approved 2 huge parking garages as part of the BOK Park Plaza project directly south of the city garage and to the east of another municipally owned garage at Sheridan and Walker.

    The Oklahoma City Police Association is a nonprofit organization funded by police employees. It provides insurance and other benefits to more than 1,200 of its members, which amounts to more than 95% of all police employees in OKC.

    The city has never provided parking for police employees and thus over the last several decades the association has purchased five surface parking lots, including 601 W. Main, the site of the controversial development proposal. Most police employees drive their own cars to work then use city-owned vehicles for official police matters.

    In addition to using the lots for police employees during business days, they are also used by various arts agencies for activities at the Civic Center, often in exchange for performance tickets which are then shared with police employees.

    The association-owned lot directly south of the the newly renovated Main Street Arcade is currently leased to the owners of that property for the use of their tenants.

    As the City prepares to demolish the old police and municipal courts building, the parking situation near the new Police Headquarters and separate Municipal Courts Building the parking in the area has already become more strained as both were recently constructed on former surface lots.

    Hill said the association approached the city about developing structured parking on its lot south of the new police building but was met with resistance from city planners who emphasized the desire to develop the Main Street Corridor the stretch of Main Street connecting the Central Business District to the 21c Museum Hotel and massive West Village project into a mix of housing and commercial space.

    The association then discussed the idea of developing multi-level parking on the surface lot to be created by the demolition of the old police building but that was also rejected, according to Hill.

    The last three years of meetings and proposals have taken place outside formal city meetings and thus there has not been public record of the many efforts of all parties involved to find a mutually-agreeable solution.

    Now, the police association believes the proposed garage is the best alternative as it would free up their Main Street lots for future development in the manner desired by the city, as well as provide commercial space along both Main and Colcord. The association has experienced ample interest by developers over the last several years and that interest has only accelerated due to the 21c Hotel and other significant developments at the west end of downtown.

    The association believes its plans meet all the downtown development framework and guidelines and is committed to securing a long-term parking solution for police employees.

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