View Full Version : Really frustrated with University North Park



dismayed
10-27-2010, 04:34 PM
You know, I moved to Norman several years ago in part because of all the grandiose claims of the University of Oklahoma building a lifestyle center on 24th Ave. We were promised high-end retail and a high-end environment. We were reassured up-front that first the big boxes would move in, but that after that... eventually... the high-end stuff would be built. Now as a result of the economic downturn the project director and the university are claiming things may never come to fruition, and frankly I think it is an excuse.

Fist, take a look at the thing. I have never seen a lifestyle center anywhere in this country that looks that cheap. Ever been to downtown Kansas City or anywhere on the West Coast? A lifestyle center does not look like this piece of junk.

Secondly, look who they have constructing and coordinating everything. I recently spoke to someone who is or was a tenant over there and the company they have putting the whole thing up is well-known for building strip malls in the southeast/east coast... big boring centers full of Kohls and Target and the like. That is not upscale! Target is not upscale, it is barely better than Wal-Mart. If the people who are designing this thing have experience with common big box stores, why on earth would the city or the university think they could pull something more than that off? It is embarrassing that the shops in Moore, which as far as I know were not city backed and funded with a TIF, are developing far more quickly than anything we have going on in Norman.

Third, who the heck is this dude that is serving as the public face of the project that is always speaking to the City Council. Googling him, as best I can tell, he is an executive who runs a pharmaceuticals company who has ties to the university and to President Boren and just stops by and says some nice things every once in a while when his day job isn't interfering too much. Why on earth would you have someone who is not specialized in building and overseeing these types of projects, who is not full-time, spearheading something like this? How horribly mismanaged is the University and/or the city to allow development to occur on its land by folks like this?

Now they're talking about putting car lots or a tire center over there. Really, that's interesting I have never heard of an upscale tire center before, perhaps they serve lattes in their waiting area. Are you kidding me????

If you want to know why people get frustrated with this city or Oklahoma in general, it is because people who have lived in parts of this country who have seen things get done correctly are fed up with the BS that passes for leadership and direction here. To constantly see one project after another, proposed with bellicose grandeur and pomp and circumstance, only to watch all such dreams crumble away into the dark dim reality of more of the same old slop is ridiculous.

I want answers. I want someone to address the above or for starters I want the TIF obliterated and any tax advantages the University received as a result of the development nullified. It is unbearable that this has been going on for over five years and has turned into what it has today. Where is the Transcript? Why aren't you doing something... reporting something? Who will be held to answer for this colossal waste of taxpayers money... yes a waste because we are doing exactly what we said we would not do -- that being we are building a bunch of stuff we already have in the city and are doing nothing but cannibalizing sales. The whole point was to draw new, unique, upscale entities that we do not have here. Transcript, Daily, or KGOU are any of you going to press anyone on this? I think it is about time someone did....

blangtang
10-27-2010, 10:01 PM
All the goodies that were promised are on hold until the NEDC builds some office buildings or something, then the money will start rolling in and everything will proceed as it was touted. At least thats what I remember from the last article in the Transcript a few weeks ago.

At least the City of Norman didnt end up owning a convention center attached to a hotel. Its a great deal, that bridge they are building with that money.

flintysooner
10-28-2010, 05:15 AM
the shops in Moore, which as far as I know were not city backed and funded with a TIF, are developing far more quickly than anything we have going on in Norman.Actually the City of Moore provided a sales tax incentive to the developer for the Shops At Moore project. Arguably the location was more severely blighted than that of University Park but had it not been for the sales tax incentive the project would not have been possible. From the City of Moore's perspective there is a very good possibility of long term benefit from that center because of increased sales tax revenue and helping provide Moore residents with better local retail choices. And surely most of us who travel I-35 prefer the Shops at Moore to what was there.

But you're correct that there was no TIF for Shops at Moore.

I never thought the TIF was the right vehicle for University North Park since it had county wide implications. The argument certainly can be made that it was going to take something pretty massive to ever do anything with that very large piece of land and that it was significant enough in both location and size as to need entire county involvement.

Further I have to admit that I prefer this long term, cohesive development plan for the land over what might have ended up as a terrible hodgepodge of disconnected developments of questionable quality. But the argument that this is a lot better than what might have been otherwise is not very satisfying.

I disagree with you to some extent on the quality and scope of the existing development. My understanding is that the University demanded and received significant upgrades in the quality of building. I think it looks pretty good personally. As for scope this a huge development but there really is significant infrastructure that has been completed. I suspect that investment will pay off handsomely given enough time.

Time and patience is required now. There likely will be more economic expansion ahead since we are still in the midst of the recession now. What will be difficult will be to wait for the right tenants and users of the space and to resist the urge to take whatever comes in the interest of short term gain. That's not something I have reason to be terribly optimistic about.

The jury is still out on whether so called Life Style centers ever reemerge. Many developers and those who study development think it is a dead concept. That's probably the majority opinion but these things change rather quickly so it is hard to know.

Sometimes it is easy to concentrate on what is not rather than what has been done -- especially in the middle of a huge recession.

Now the politics of the situation I do not know much about. It is pretty obvious that a significant focus of development to the area along I-35 between Tecumseh and Robinson has occurred. That truly does have implication for the entire City of Norman and I don't have a clue whether it is good, bad or indifferent.

I certainly feel and appreciate your level of frustration about the project and can only think it must be shared by many others.

Added: I was always concerned that the development might damage other Norman retail such as the mall and the power center along Ed Noble. So far that does not appear to be the case and I consider that a really good thing. It may well turn out that the recession helped prevent that.

Jesseda
10-28-2010, 11:24 AM
didnt they just open up a dollar tree at the unp? Isnt that like the nail in the high end shopping coffin?

gamecock
10-31-2010, 07:34 PM
I am frustrated, too. The Transcript has done a few stories about this. Here is a good one from the summer:

http://normantranscript.com/headlines/x1385497352/High-end-retailers-a-long-way-off-for-UNP

I do think the economic downturn has played a significant role in what has happened. But I would rather them wait for the economy to recover than to start bringing in lousy retailers like Dollar Tree and $1 Jewelery (their hot pink sign should not be allowed). That said, stores like Target and Kohl's were part of the original plan. That side of the street was never intended to be upscale. The high-end retailers are supposed to go in across the street.

I have a hard time believing that the lifestyle center concept is completely dead. I have been to these outdoor malls in other parts of the country, and they seem to be doing just as well as any other type of retail in this environment.

I think we just have to be patient. I am nervous, but still hopeful. I don't think any significant promises have been broken yet...

Jesseda
10-31-2010, 10:34 PM
I still love outside malls, wish it would happen here, the outlet mall is coming, but i want something like branson landing type of mall

flintysooner
11-01-2010, 05:46 AM
I have a hard time believing that the lifestyle center concept is completely dead. I have been to these outdoor malls in other parts of the country, and they seem to be doing just as well as any other type of retail in this environment.You have to think in terms of a "product" that developers can build and then sell. A "strip center" is an example as well as the "power center." The developer conceives a project and secures a location but then has to convince several parties to become involved. Usually these include one or more lenders, one or more investors, real estate brokers, retailers, and various governmental units.

All of these have different interests. The investors and lenders want to know how much cash they will be putting in for how long and for how much return. The lenders will require a certain percentage of lease commitments that have to be obtained by the brokers so it is important for them to believe they can actually obtain those. And there have to be some retailers who are willing to pay the lease rate that the project requires and those retailers have to be sufficiently sound financially to convince the lenders of the long term viability of the project. Then it is important to have whatever City and other government units tentative approval for obvious reasons.

This entire process is quite expensive to undertake and may easily cost thousands or even millions of dollars all spent far in advance by the developer. The developer hopes to eventually sell the "product" at a profit so there has to also be buyers of such projects.

When the recession began the developers around the country were decimated since it quickly became obvious that there was not going to be much need for their services. The ones that remain look for other opportunities. Investors and lenders also found it was more advantageous and far less risky to pursue other financial opportunities capable of much greater returns. Retailers are still fighting for survival.

Then the government has not been been particularly friendly to the industry either with policies apparently crafted with not much real understanding of how things work.

For things to change there has to be some kind of general resurgence in retail expansion which will only occur when there is more retail activity by the consumer. That appears to be some years off yet.

What new retail development will look like when the resurgence does occur is much debated but really unknown. It isn't likely to be the lifestyle center concept because that model has proved too expensive to sustain in terms of cost versus return. Strip centers and power centers have been much better but those are only viable in areas that are under served.

Seems more likely to be some kind of redevelopment but it will be interesting to see what develops.

easternobserver
11-03-2010, 04:48 PM
Um...the national economy CRASHED at the exact time this project started. No one could control that. Be patient -- Oklahoma City has been cited numerous times as being at the forefront of being prepared to grow once the national economy starts to turn for the better. Dont settle for crap stores just to fill spaces. Wait and hold out for quality.

Soonerman
11-04-2010, 02:39 PM
^ this

dop
11-04-2010, 03:10 PM
It looks like Jack in the box and Panda Express will be going in sometime in the future.....if that makes you feel better.

progressiveboy
11-06-2010, 07:57 PM
It looks like Jack in the box and Panda Express will be going in sometime in the future.....if that makes you feel better. I thought that Panda Express was already in Norman, at Riverwind Casino? I do not see them building in University North Park.

dop
11-06-2010, 10:00 PM
I just saw it on the Sooner Investment's plans (on website). It shows it right across from Pei Wei. Jack in the box across the street from Target. Nothing has been started on it yet.....so we will see.

dismayed
11-14-2010, 03:16 PM
On Friday there was a big story in The Oklahoman about the outlet mall that is under construction at I-40 and Council in OKC. There was a list of some of the stores that will be going in, and one of them was Saks Fifth Avenue.

A few weeks ago the developers of University North Park were quoted in The Transcript as saying that stores of that nature are not coming to the OKC metro for a very, very long time. Other stores were mentioned that they all but discounted. I'd just like to point out that bluntly they are wrong. There are always stores out there looking to expand even in a down economy, even if that means courting one of their outlet stores rather than a flagship. I find it unfortunate that Norman has missed this opportunity and that Saks Outlet is going to OKC instead. Perhaps an outlet store isn't "high end" enough for the developers from their perspective, but I would have to question that logic when the developers have been very open about considering adding car lots and tire shops to UNP in the wake of the downturn.

metro
11-15-2010, 08:42 AM
It's an Off 5th Saks Outlet, not quite Sak's. Outlets like to congregate together, no chance UNP was going to lure just one outlet.

BG918
11-15-2010, 10:31 AM
UNP is a big box shopping center serving Norman and the southside of the metro. Nothing more. I still think mixed-use, upscale retail would work in Norman but closer to OU as part of a revitalization of University Blvd. in Campus Corner. Retail, apartments, restaurants, a smaller boutique hotel would all do well in that corridor, and fit in much better there than they would off I-35 next to the airport. Something like Fort Worth's Crockett St. redevelopment below. Something like that would benefit the University and actual urban areas of Norman much more than UNP ever would.

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3490/3940414982_20f44b5ab1_o.jpg
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2692/4265087828_64aba2fd9f_b.jpg

dismayed
11-15-2010, 06:42 PM
It's an Off 5th Saks Outlet, not quite Sak's. Outlets like to congregate together, no chance UNP was going to lure just one outlet.

I know, I mentioned that it was an outlet in my post. Perhaps it wasn't as clear in my post as it should have been, but I am just wondering aloud why on earth UNP is considering changing their strategy to be a low-end retailer (a paraphrase of what the Transcript reported last month), instead of considering going the way of an outlet mall. If it really is coming to this, and as the developers said we are going to have to make 'tough choices" soon, then I would think the better choice would be going outlet. That's all.

dismayed
11-15-2010, 06:44 PM
BG918 I like the photos. It surprises me that for all the talk of mixed use we see on these forums really we have very few examples of that in the metro area.

BG918
11-15-2010, 07:10 PM
BG918 I like the photos. It surprises me that for all the talk of mixed use we see on these forums really we have very few examples of that in the metro area.

Would you agree that University Blvd. through Campus Corner is a good location for such development? And yes we need to see more of this built in Oklahoma. The Texas cities are way ahead of us in building high quality, mixed-use developments.

JimTrabersColostomyBag
11-16-2010, 10:27 PM
I know, I mentioned that it was an outlet in my post. Perhaps it wasn't as clear in my post as it should have been, but I am just wondering aloud why on earth UNP is considering changing their strategy to be a low-end retailer (a paraphrase of what the Transcript reported last month), instead of considering going the way of an outlet mall. If it really is coming to this, and as the developers said we are going to have to make 'tough choices" soon, then I would think the better choice would be going outlet. That's all.

I doubt going outlet would work since there is a huge outlet development currently under construction on the west side of OKC.

Spartan
11-17-2010, 12:03 AM
Um...the national economy CRASHED at the exact time this project started. No one could control that. Be patient -- Oklahoma City has been cited numerous times as being at the forefront of being prepared to grow once the national economy starts to turn for the better. Dont settle for crap stores just to fill spaces. Wait and hold out for quality.

This is worthless blabber. Who gives a flying %$#@ about the supposed state of the national economy. Anyone who has traveled has seen that these developments that Central Oklahoma has NOTHING LIKE are still going on, and especially so in areas similar to OKC like Texas, Kansas, and IMO Calgary (I see urban development still happening everywhere in Calgary). This is rationalization at its greatest. This is just the current rationalization, too. Before this, there was a different rationalization. After this, there will again be a different one. Don't be shocked either, don't get mad, just leave Oklahoma if it really matters to you. That is the only option left on the plate.

Btw easternobserver, nobody is settling for crap stores just to fill spaces. You'll see that that's just what's getting built instead. The developers pulled the ole bait-and-switch, the oldest trick in the suburban sprawl developer playbook. Promise a better project, get a TIF, then pull the project and replace it with crap and say it's either this or zilch and blame it on external factors. This is not the first time we've seen this done, either. Who gets ripped off are the tax payers unfortunately who are paying for every bit of the infrastructure and then some for this project, not to mention lining the pockets of the developer.

Campus Corner has really exploded in the last 2 years. It, IMO, is one of the best urban college districts in the nation. Oklahoma is great at the small things. Not so great at the big things. Take solace in something like Campus Corner and give up on anything large-scale and $$$ like what UNP was promised. You'll notice how many times downtown OKC retail could have made breakthroughs too, but not only did the economy halt things, but so did politics. And if you really think that the national economy is preventing urban development from going through and that patience really is the name of the game, go and tell the developers in Dallas, Ft Worth, Houston, Austin, Albuquerque, Nashville, Charlotte, Kansas City, and especially Tulsa, Jenks, and Glenpool, that they need to stop building and start sitting on their hands instead.

I suppose in the end Mayor Rosenthal has been a pretty huge disappointment for the urban enthusiasts who were her base in her first election and then got her reelected against the westside suburban developer that ran against her..

blangtang
11-17-2010, 01:16 AM
Yes, she has been a disappointment. However, she beat out Trey Bates, who with his family is developing an eastside suburban community.

In my mind, the worst part about the UNP TIF is that when the OU Trust put that land up for bid there were 2 other out of state bidders on the plot of land that outbid the OU foundation. Since the OU foundation got out bid, they matched the highest bid and the land was transferred to the OU foundation. We all know what happens after that.

I wonder what the thing would look like today had one of those higher bidders been developing the parcel. Maybe its worse, maybe better, who knows. The TIF has been a failure up to this point. Maybe the city and the developer will get it turned around. However, I doubt it.