View Full Version : Lackmeyer article gets tough with OCURA

12-11-2007, 02:35 PM
Glad to see this article, leave it to Lackmeyer to put the pressure on OCURA. I don't see any other journalists around here doing any quality work. Good job Steve. Keep the light on them!!!!:bright_id

What are the rules at Urban Renewal?
The Daily Oklahoman
By Steve Lackmeyer
Main Street

With all apologies to Forrest Gump Urban Renewal is like ... a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.
The city trust has had a lot of success this past decade attracting developers to once blighted downtown property that sat neglected since the 1970s. And as evidenced by the latest request for proposals for a corner at NW 4 and Shartel Avenue, developers no longer need to be convinced on the merits of downtown housing.

At least two unsolicited inquiries inspired this latest request including one public pitch by developer Grant Humphreys.

But what process will be used this time to select a developer, and by what rules will the progress be judged?

Look back at the past decade for guidance, and the rules might seem a bit fuzzy.

Consider the somewhat controversial developer selection in April 2005 for what is now known as "The Hill. A group led by architect/developer Anthony McDermid thought it had the edge on winning a heated competition for the property at NE 2 and Stiles after it was given highest rankings by a consultant hired by Urban Renewal. But a last minute change in a proposal offered by competitors Bill Canfield and Marva Ellard convinced a split Urban Renewal board to give them the nod.

After complaints by McDermid's team, Urban Renewal director JoeVan Bullard said last-minute changes shouldn't be allowed again but added nothing existed in the rules at the time to prevent commissioners from considering the late changes offered by Canfield and Ellard.

Fast forward to last spring. Ellard, no longer an active participant in The Hill project, was competing with Chuck Wiggin to develop the former site of Mercy Hospital another site controlled by Urban Renewal. This time, Urban Renewal did not employ a consultant but it did assemble a committee whose members were selected by Bullard.

And Wiggin was chosen after Urban Renewal commissioners reviewed the committee report, which praised his Overholser Greens proposal for complementing Heritage Hills neighborhood to the north. The same report criticized Ellard's Mercy Park because it included apartments and retail.

But as mentioned here before, a look at the membership of the citizen's committee showed that while it includes a longtime resident of Heritage Hills, it didn't include anyone from MidTown. The Mercy site is in MidTown not Heritage Hills.

Ellard maintained her composure, but her financing partner warned Wiggin's proposal for 109 condominiums averaging in the $500,000 range wasn't feasible. Wiggin now agrees with that assessment. And at last week's meeting, Urban Renewal commissioners approved a development agreement that allows Wiggin to downscale the project from 109 units to as few as 85 units, with the size and prices also reduced.

It's not the same proposal offered in April. But to be fair, it wouldn't be the first to change in size and scale. The Legacy at Arts Quarter was lowered from five to four stories, and one would barely recognize the sketches of Lower Bricktown first submitted by Randy Hogan a decade ago.

So the question is: Are such changes the nature of the development business? Or, as some developers in this community privately protest, is Urban Renewal too subjective in which projects get tough love while others get a pass?

12-11-2007, 03:34 PM
Way to go Steve!

Somebody needs to speak out for the benefit of the community.

He was pretty darn kind given the recent dealings. And I bet people like McDermid and Ellard would have scathing things to say if not for fear of being excluded from future consideration.

12-11-2007, 04:01 PM
and one would barely recognize the sketches of Lower Bricktown first submitted by Randy Hogan a decade ago.

Are any of these renderings still on the net?

12-11-2007, 04:29 PM
I had forgotten that Ellard was involved with the Hill. That seems to complicate things.

But kudos to Steve for this article. It's time for Joe Van and company to go.

12-11-2007, 07:33 PM
Great job, Steve. I would like to say, however, that Steve better be careful or upper management at the Joke might tell him to stay in line. OCURA is one of their machinations.

12-11-2007, 08:17 PM
Are any of these renderings still on the net?