View Full Version : The Urban Renewal we don't hear about

03-26-2010, 08:32 AM
Dare to dream
Wayne Linzy becomes an urban pioneer in his old neighborhood
By Tom Lindley
The Journal Record
Thursday, March 25, 2010

OKLAHOMA CITY – Only a mile or so from the panache of Bricktown and the passion of Deep Deuce, another urban fairy tale is coming true.

It’s a story of faith, family and friends, all centered around one man’s childhood fantasy of someday building his own home in the neighborhood where he grew up.

As a result, more than 100 new homes now stand in the lower John F. Kennedy housing edition, where for 20 years none had been built.

At the Urban Renewal Authority, they call Wayne Linzy the real urban pioneer because it was his eagerness to put his own financial future at risk that helped pave the way for JFK’s rebirth in the heart of the city’s African-American community.

It’s a role Linzy has filled reluctantly.

The day he walked into real estate administrator Bill Eudy’s office at the authority nine years ago, Linzy wasn’t looking to make a statement or lead a parade. He said he was just looking for some land, and he had heard the Urban Renewal Authority had a lot of that.

“We weren’t building as an investment. We were building a home in the area I grew up and was familiar with,” Linzy said this week. “I was actually being very selfish when we set out. I love elbow room.”

At the time, there was lots of elbow room in lower JFK. Large swaths had been cleared out by the authority over the years as modest shotgun homes on 25-foot lots fell into disrepair and the neighborhood emptied out.

Urban Renewal had managed to spur some new development there in the late 1970s, but by 2000 the area between NE Fourth and NE Eighth streets and Stonewall and Martin Luther King was lagging far behind most of the city in new development.

About that time, City Planning Commissioner James Williams and former City Councilwoman Willa Johnson, among others, urged the authority to take the same approach in lower JFK that it had taken in other parts of the city.

“James Williams said that it’s not a bad neighborhood and that we shouldn’t build cracker boxes there,” Eudy said.

To that end, the commission put out a call in 2003 for developers to build some quality spec homes on 15 lots that could be acquired for as little as 8 cents a square foot.

HGL Construction of Midwest City, the City of Oklahoma City Neighborhood Services and Central Urban Development Inc., a subsidiary of NE Church of Christ, each signed up to build five small, affordable homes.

As good fortune would have it, Linzy walked in Eudy’s door not long after that with something even bigger in mind.

“He said he wanted to buy a lot, but I told him that we only were selling to developers,” Eudy said. “Then he rolls out some plans and said ‘What’s wrong with this deal?’ ”

While he wasn’t aware that the authority was soliciting proposals from developers, Linzy had spent a lot of time thinking about building his dream house in the neighborhood where he grew up and not far away from where his parents lived and the church he attended.

“It was kind of a childhood fantasy of mine to be in the area and have something more permanent,” Linzy said.

Eudy took the idea to his boss, who took it to the board, which agreed that they would have a hard time finding someone better than Linzy, a state trooper, to be the cornerstone of the community.

“Before Wayne came along, we were looking for one developer to make all our dreams come true,” Eudy said.

But as the walls went up on Linzy’s custom house, with its three-car garage and oversized lot, something better happened: Curiosity quickly turned into shared vision.

“As the house was under construction, more people seemed to know more about my house plan than I did,” Linzy said.

Before long, a word-of-mouth campaign was attracting friends, family, church members and other professionals to lower JFK, transforming it into one of the most successful mixed-use developments that Urban Renewal has sponsored.

Since 2003, 100 homes – ranging in price from $100,000 to more than $300,000 – have been completed. Another nine are now under construction, and contracts for 12 others have been awarded. The agency also has redevelopment agreements for another 39 homes to be built in the next 12 to 18 months.

Eudy said pent-up demand for new high-quality housing in northeast Oklahoma City, the downtown renaissance, the construction of the new Douglass High School and the expansion of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center also have contributed to JFK’s blossoming.

Over time, the project has attracted more builders, including Ron Walters Construction Services Inc., Dodson Custom Homes, the Urban League, Neal McGee Homes, Landmark Homes, Jonathan Wise Homes, Branscum Design, Dodson Custom Homes, Step by Stepps Construction, Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity, the Oklahoma City Housing Authority and Vesta Homes.

Because the project has involved multiple builders and both smaller homes for first-time homebuyers and luxury custom homes for professionals, Eudy said lower JFK has “ended up with a neighborhood, not a development.”

To promote more home ownership in the area, Central Urban Development also is proposing to construct 32 new single-family lease-purchase units using Affordable Housing Tax Credits as part of those 39, which will be built to the same high standards as other residences.

Like Linzy, Williams grew up in the area and wanted to replicate the great sense of community the neighborhood once offered when it was a place where residents could walk to the grocery store, to church and to school.

“I keep getting drawn back there,” said Williams, who also designed and built some homes in the area more than 20 years ago, before the oil bust turned it into a largely forgotten place again.

“The challenge of building affordable homes is that a 2-by-4 costs the same in JFK as it does in Edmond,” Williams said.

That, he said, is why Central Urban Development’s lease-purchase plan holds a lot of promise for those who would not otherwise be able to afford to buy their a home.

As more rooftops sprout up, Eudy said he also is optimistic that a retail corridor will start to take shape on the east end of the neighborhood.

“I think this has worked out for beyond what I expected,” Eudy said. “I think James Williams knew, and I think Wayne Linzy knew. He certainly put his money where his mouth was.”

03-26-2010, 10:31 AM
Cool, never knew about this area. Glad to see improvement in all areas of the city.

03-27-2010, 12:40 AM
This is actually a heart warming story. We sure do blast OCURA a lot, and rightfully so, but this makes me feel like I can accept them as a valuable member of the community that I just disagree with a lot.

I really want to check this area out for myself when I'm back home in April. And never before have I expressed an interest in actually wanting to check out NE 8th and MLK.

03-27-2010, 08:30 AM
Is this by any chance all those neighborhoods in and around the State Capitol and the Oklahoma City Housing Authority?

03-27-2010, 09:20 AM
Go straight east on 4th st. out of downtown a little and you will see a bunch of new homes sitting to the north. This area is south and east of the hospitals.

03-27-2010, 10:24 AM
Go straight east on 4th st. out of downtown a little and you will see a bunch of new homes sitting to the north. This area is south and east of the hospitals.

OKCRT...I am on Google Maps now. What are the cross streets on NE 4th?

03-27-2010, 10:36 AM
OKCRT...nevermind, I found it.

03-27-2010, 10:36 AM
OKCRT...I am on Google Maps now. What are the cross streets on NE 4th?

Walnut, Stiles, Lincoln, Phillips, Kelly, High, Lottie, Eastern

03-27-2010, 10:44 AM
I grew up in the area (just west of Lottie and 4th), also desired to move back to the area. So I did.... The main area focused on in the article is between NE 4th (S) and NE 8th (N) and Lottie (W) and MLK (E)...

Great and easy commute to downtown for work, and out of Thunder victories ;)