View Full Version : Urban Renewal to blame

07-20-2005, 02:58 PM
For sometime now, I've complained that Urban Renewal needs to be dissolved. They've mishandled many downtown development projects, the most recent being the Hill in Deep Deuce. Downtownguy's recent blog entry on the failure of OCURA to maintain their properties only adds support to my complaint.

"Can't We Do Better?

I know people who say Oklahoma City's urban renewal agency is staffed with hard working people who don't deserve to be tagged as bad guys. Because of that, I've tried not to be strident on this page, to simply lash out at this misunderstood city department.

But I remain convinced that they need to open up. They need to put their agendas, meeting minutes and listings of their properties on the web.

Now I think there may be more to their secrecy. Just drive through Deep Deuce. Look at the worst properties. Look at the parking lot at the 200 block of Northeast Second, and find out who owns it. I called up someone at the assessor's office and found out: the parking lot with 4-foot-high weeds, a dilapidated parking attendant's booth and junk sitting where cars once did, belongs to urban reenwal.

So do the weed filled empty properties at Northeast 3 and Walnut.

Can't we do any better than this? This is becoming a very important corridor to OKC. How does this sort of appearance effect decisions by out-of-state investors coming in to look at our downtown?

Would a private developer do business this way? Are these properties such that urban renewal board members Larry Nichols and Fred Hall would be happy to show off?

posted by The Downtown Guy | 9:26 AM |"

07-20-2005, 02:58 PM
Here are some comments from readers of his blog:

"Anonymous said...
Ouch, stinging!! Yes OKC deserves much much better.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005 12:22:05 PM
The Old Downtown Guy said...
Thanks for speaking out on this issue DTG. If I have junk and tall grass on my property, I'm likely to get a letter from the City.

Along with a page on the OKC City Hall website, where agendas, meeting minutes and other info could be posted why shouldn't large parcels available for development proposals have signs to that effect on them?

A quick search of the Oklahoma County Assessor’s Public Access website lists nearly 1100 tax accounts for the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority. The Assessor’s site ( is quite sophisticated and contains a wealth of information on these parcels, including photographs of the standing buildings and a mapping feature for locating the parcels within the OKC street grid. On the map, you can also bring up an ariel photograph of the parcel.

Most of the holdings are vacant lots without physical addresses consisting of two or more 25' X 140' building lots. If that is an average size for each tax account, OKCURA owns over 160 acres of land mostly in and around the urban core.

I did take a look at a few of the accounts with addresses and one of them was for a house in a south side OKC neighborhood. The accompanying photo is of a single family brick home with a mowed yard and two cars in the drive way.

Also, most of the accounts I looked at did not include the transaction amount that the URA paid for the property, stating “no sales records returned”. Or, another way of saying, no easily accessed public information.

It would be interesting to really research this information and compile an overview map of all of the parcels, calculate a market value, estimate the taxes not being paid while OKCURA owns the property etc. Alas, I have a life to live and a business to operate. But right now, its lunch time . . .Johnny’s Lunch Box?. . . . Someplace Else? . . . . Taste The Carribean? . . . . The Red Cup? . . . . Deep Deuce Grill? . . . . Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005 12:24:02 PM
PapaJack said...
If you will post the street addresses of the properties with weeds and junk, I'll gladly call Action Line, 297-2535 and report the offenses. I've had good luck in correcting "situations" in my neighborhood, and I'm feeling ornery enough to take on OCURA.

What's the address of the Bricktown parking lot just East of the RR tracks on Sheridan? It has always been junky with unfinished landscaping.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005 2:56:25 PM
The Downtown Guy said...
The address for the junky URA lot is the 200 block of Northeast 2nd. That's the best address I can give, because it's not listed anywhere I can find.
As for the parking lot on Sheridan, I believe you speak of the Bricktown Parking Investors lot owned by Jim Brewer. He bought that lot from the Oklahoma Transportation Department, beating out a bid by Rich McClain, who wanted it to provide parking for what would have been lofts in the Bunte Candy building. Instead, Brewer convinced the state he needed the lot for Amtrak parking.
The lot's finish might be subject to Bricktown Urban Design standards, but I don't know. All of this comes from a friend of mine in Bricktown, so I can't promise it's all correct.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005 7:31:19 PM
The Old Downtown Guy said...
Nice gesture PJack, but should it be up to you to police all the properties owned by The City (OKCURA) that are in violation of The City's Property Maintenance Codes? My count says that OKCURA owns about 1100 parcels. It’s obviously more than they can keep track of and maintain properly. A nice article in the Daily or a blast on the nightly news seems appropriate followed by a strong suggestion from City Council that OKCURA get their act together.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005 8:32:35 PM "

07-20-2005, 03:38 PM
The day Urban Renewal practices open stewardship of its properties will be one of the signals of a truly maturing Oklahoma City. It seems OCURA doesn't understand that the way they've been doing things is the way a plutocratic small town operates, not the way a city our size should. The board needs fresh-thinking blood.

07-20-2005, 04:13 PM
I take it OCURA isn't subject to open meeting laws?

This group has more power to shape the future face of OKC more than anyone, and it seems they have no accountability whatsoever.

07-20-2005, 04:36 PM
This group has more power to shape the future face of OKC more than anyone, and it seems they have no accountability whatsoever.

Houston, I think we have a problem. And MalibuSooner just uncovered it!

07-21-2005, 08:47 AM
Their meetings are open. You can call 235-3771 to get agendas and meeting dates. And they are accountable; their board members are appointed by the mayor.

07-21-2005, 09:17 AM
Then why the call for them to "open up"? Why not just publish their meeting dates, agendas and minutes yourself?

And in those minutes, would we find the criteria used for selecting developers or how they go about marketing various properties on behalf of the citizens of OKC?

The Old Downtown Guy
07-21-2005, 09:30 AM
There is a big difference between having open meetings and conducting the agency's work in a public way. I don't want to get into bashing the OKCURA, though I have from time to time participated in that activity, but the agency just has bad PR. They have done some good work in OKC, most notably, Research Park, but I think they could do much better with more progressive leadership on their board. Term limits would be a way to bring new blood in.

As for the lack of maintenance on their vacant property, there is simply no excuse for letting junk accumulate and weeds grow on URA property in the middle of town. That is simply an administrative issue that needs to be addressed

07-21-2005, 09:35 AM
It doesn't seem like it should be that difficult to get OKCURA to "clean-up" their vacant properties downtown. I don't understand the problem here. Are they just not concerned about it or too busy to deal with it?

07-21-2005, 11:21 AM
Yes, you may "call" to get their list of meetings, but they are intentionally difficult to pin down, often changing locations at the last minute.

I went to a meeting once to complain about another in a long list of terrible, anti-human decisions made by that execrable board, and I was treated like I didn't belong there, even though the dumb decision directly affected the quality and value of my neighborhood.

They don't cotton well to citizens attending those meetings. Don't take my word for it. Try it yourself. When you walk in you will get a contemptuous staredown from Bullard and the rest of the cronies.

They are the most abysmal organization in the history of this city. Their list of achievements is few. Their list of failures is massive. In short, they completely suck and are responsible for most of the rotten, desecrated core of our inner city.

Bad, bad group.

07-21-2005, 12:47 PM
This is the Oklahoma Open Meetings Act:

Under the terms of the act, all "public bodies," that is, municipalities, county commissions, boards of public and higher education, state agencies, and all state-sponsored boards, commissions, and other groups, must give advance notice of all meetings. Notice must include time, place, and subject matter listed in a specific agenda that gives a true picture of any actions that are contemplated. All votes are to be publicly cast and recorded, and all proceedings must be fully recorded, in writing. Records of the meetings must be available and open to public inspection. Executive sessions are strictly limited to very specific purposes.

There is also the companion Open Records Act:

which exists to facilitate "review of government records so they [the public] may efficiently and intelligently exercise their inherent political power." In effect, the two statutes are an attempt to regularize and monitor the actions of elected and appointed officials and prevent the abuse of power.

I am 98% sure both of these apply to OCURA (being a public body) and therefore I believe citizens are entitled to know more than they have chosen to reveal, such as the criteria used for selecting developers of particular properties and how they go about marketing the properties they own.

07-21-2005, 12:53 PM
BTW, I just spoke to their office on the phone.

They'll mail you the minutes (for some reason they won't send them via email) for .25 per page -- they estimated each meeting is over 20 pages.

Also, their meetings are the 3rd Wednesday of every month.

I ordered the minutes from the last two meetings and once received, I'll scan and post for anyone interested.

07-21-2005, 02:01 PM
BTW, I just spoke to their office on the phone.

They'll mail you the minutes (for some reason they won't send them via email) for .25 per page -- they estimated each meeting is over 20 pages.

Also, their meetings are the 3rd Wednesday of every month.

I ordered the minutes from the last two meetings and once received, I'll scan and post for anyone interested.

Thanks MalibuSooner. We'd appreciate that.

07-21-2005, 04:16 PM
From downtownguy's blog:

For all of you arguing that Urban Renewal should be disbanded; did it ever occur to you none of this could be happening without it? Yes, some changes may be needed on how they do business. But I wonder if some critics really understand how all this works."

I only saw one person mentioning disbandment and I'm sure even he realizes there needs to be an entity to handle such matters -- just not this particular group of people.

And as far as understanding 'how all this works', I think that's the whole point... We don't understand and OCURA has done a terrible job of communicating.

Considering they are a public agency that exists only to serve the greater good and that there are many concerned citizens (myself included) trying desperately to get information and perspective and yet things are still extremely obtuse... In that regard they have failed miserably and frankly there is no way to determine if they are discharging their duties in a responsible manner. And in fact, the strange way in which they often conduct business strongly implies the opposite.

07-21-2005, 08:35 PM
"And as far as understanding 'how all this works', I think that's the whole point... We don't understand and OCURA has done a terrible job of communicating."

Excellent point, Malibu Sooner. And my apologies if my comment came across as being too dismissive... Posting agendas and minutes online, with or without urban renewal's consent, would be a good start at change. Has anyone considered asking Urban Renewal to fax or email the agendas and minutes to save money and make it easier to put on this or other websites?

07-21-2005, 11:00 PM
I asked them to email the minutes and they said they had to send hard copies. I think I'll call back and insist.

The minutes and agendas are public record so we do not need their permission to post.

They also told me it takes at least two weeks to release minutes after a meeting.

07-22-2005, 10:11 PM
They said they can't email you the agenda and minutes?
Call them again. Ask them if to email you the agenda and minutes. If they still refuse, ask for the director, JoeVan Bullard, to call you and explain why it can't be emailed to you.
If you don't get a call back within a week, call Mayor Mick Cornett's office at 297-2424.
In 2005, this really doesn't make sense.

07-26-2005, 02:03 PM
MalibuSooner, were you able to get the minutes emailed to you? Wasn't sure if you tried to work on it anymore.

I completely agree that if they'd be more open in regards to their decisions, it would appear they they were trying to be more accountable with the general public.

07-26-2005, 07:00 PM
They were supposed to mail me an order form which I have yet to receive.

I'll call them again tomorrow but there process of making minutes available is not doing much to change my opinion of their effectiveness.

07-26-2005, 07:40 PM
They were supposed to mail me an order form which I have yet to receive.

I'll call them again tomorrow but there process of making minutes available is not doing much to change my opinion of their effectiveness.
That's order form just to get the minutes sent to you? With today's modern technology, I know for a fact that the City can e-mail just about anything. It's amazing that it takes two weeks for them to release the minutes, when the City Council meetings' minutes are posted about two days after the council session. Urban Renewal is just jerking you around.

07-26-2005, 09:55 PM
Some details:

Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority
204 N Robinson, Ste. 2400 (City Place building)
OKC, OK 73102

Future meeting dates:

August 17
September 21
October 19
November 16
December 21
January 18

07-26-2005, 11:34 PM
I assure you I will get the minutes and post them on a regular basis.

But they sure don't make it easy.

07-27-2005, 07:34 AM
The OCURA is an anachronism, and that is being kind. Without possessing any singular abilities to discharge their duties, they have a legacy of failure. Cronyism and good-ole-boy politics are the only things they do effectively.

In short, they suck.

And yes, they deliberately make it difficult to find out about their meetings. A whole group of us should show up there and raise a little hell, or at the least, ask them questions they have to answer. Though you wouldn't know it from reading the paper, the Oklahoman always has a reporter there.

07-27-2005, 09:31 AM
downtownguy has a new write-up on OCURA's lack of cooperation on his blog and I provided an update there and wanted to share it here as well...

I called back today and was told they actually sent me the minutes of the last three meetings, although I have not received them as of yet.

I also convinced the lady that writes up the minutes to email me the next version, although it takes a couple of weeks after the meeting was held and they aren't official until ratified in the next meeting.

When I receive everything, I post it on the web and provide a link.

I suspect the minutes will not reveal some key information such as the selection criteria employed for The Hill, their real estate marketing strategies, etc. If not, that will be the next place where we can push.

08-02-2005, 01:36 PM
I finally received minutes from OCURA and have scanned and posted those from 4-21-05, the meeting where they selected William Canfield's group over that of Anthony McDermid's for The Hill project.

I have a couple others that I will scan as well but I thought I'd start with this one, as it was the most controversial.

A few of points:

1. It's clear Canfield's group had at least one meeting with directors before this meeting.

2. Canfield completely changed his financial package after the last meeting and just before this one.

3. The group admitted this was not fair to McDermid's group but allowed it anyway.

4. Stanton Young, the chairman that cast the deciding vote for Canfield, had met with the head of the OUHSC and provided feedback that they wanted larger, more up-scale units for their research scientists. If you weren't aware, Young and his family are major benefactors to the OUHSC and the main boulevard bares his name.

5. William Canfield is the founder of a large biotech firm located in the HSC.

6. After declaring the two proposals equal in terms of finance (once Canfiled had the chance to see McDermid's proposal in the last meeting then change his financing to match), Young then claims an important difference is the size of the proposed units, again referring to local HSC employees desiring larger, more luxurious homes. He seemed to strongly imply that Canfield's project had an advantage in this regard, although the size range proposed by McDermid was actually very similar to what Canfield has said he will build.

7. The group deadlocked and Young cast the deciding vote without explanation.

I may be editorializing, but that was my strong impression in reading the minutes. Please read for yourself and provide your own perspective:

08-02-2005, 01:58 PM
Here's a link to an index for all the OCURA minutes I have.

Might want to bookmark it as I'll add minutes as I receive them: