Two redevelopment ideas win favor

A citizen advisory committee recommended for consideration two Tulsa firms that submitted proposals for the redevelopment of a blighted area in northwest Muskogee.

The recommendations moved forward by the committee, which was established by the Muskogee Urban Renewal Authority, were for a retail development proposal submitted by Vector Securities Corp. and a proposal by RECO Development Group and TDK Cos. to develop a 200-unit, market-rate apartment complex.

Vector, which has development experience within the Muskogee market, wants to develop a 102,537-square-foot retail shopping center on about 10.5 acres with a separate 6,700-square-foot restaurant. The shopping center would be anchored by Dick’s Sporting Goods, TJ Maxx, an AT&T outlet, and an Ulta Salon Cosmetics and Fragrances with space for additional retail.

A proposal submitted by RECO Development Group and TDK Cos. outlines plans for “an exciting and innovative residential development” on 10 to 12 acres with 200 garden-style apartments. The 10-building complex would feature amenities that include a fitness center, cyber cafe, family areas, walking paths, barbecue stations and a resort-style pool.

The committee’s recommendations will be forwarded for city councilors’ consideration Tuesday during a special meeting. City councilors could forward those recommendations then to urban renewal commissioners, who have the final authority to approve the proposals and take the steps necessary to move forward with the redevelopment projects.

“This is just another step toward Muskogee’s future,” said Rickey Hayes of Retail Attractions, who has been hired by the city as its retail development consultant. “The QuikTrip deal — I don’t think anybody really understands the effect that is going to have on the local economy — and then today’s action by the Urban Renewal Authority (advisory committee) is just another stepping stone to get to the Muskogee everybody wants to see.”

The citizen advisory committee, in conjunction with the city’s retail development committee, favored Vector’s proposal for a couple of reasons. First, the company already has signed leases with the anchor tenants while a competing proposal submitted by RealtyLink indicates negotiations with prospective retailers are ongoing.

“That means he has a deal with those entities to open a business in Muskogee, and he is required ... to build those buildings as he has laid out in this plan,” Hayes said, noting both Vector and RealtyLink are “highly qualified” development companies. “We’ve been trying to get those guys (retailers) to come to Muskogee for at least 36 months, and now you are seeing the culmination of that work.”

Another reason Vector earned the committee’s recommendation to kick off retail development within the urban renewal area was its accelerated timeline. Vector Vice President James W. Dill set out an “aggressive timeline” that calls for a Nov. 15 start date and completion soon enough for “all retailers to open by Oct. 15, 2015.”

That aspect attracted the support of Mayor Bob Coburn, who is a member of the city’s retail development committee, and City Attorney Roy Tucker. Coburn said any delay would result with lost sales tax revenue, and Tucker said Vector’s timetable would ensure new retailers would be open for the 2015 holiday shopping season.

With regard to the residential development component, committee members — two live within the urban renewal area, and three were selected from the community at-large — favored RECO’s proposal. Their recommendation seemed to be based on calculations of per-unit costs — $94,250 a unit vs. $66,400 — that indicate the “garden-style” apartments might be of a higher caliber than those proposed by RealtyLink, which offered the city a higher purchase price for the land.

Committee members said there is a dire need in Muskogee for market-rate apartments and middle-class housing, which Hayes said could be a part of future development plans within the portion of the 90-acre project area designated for housing. They also liked the idea of providing better housing within walking distance of what officials hope will become a major retail corridor.

With regard to the city’s shortage of multi-family housing for middle-income residents, Lindsey Roberts, director of regional prevention services for Neighbors Building Neighborhoods, said the committee’s selection should send a message to the community.

“If we hadn’t been fortunate enough to be able to buy a house, I don’t know whether my family would live here,” committee member Roberts said. “This is a good opportunity to say that we acknowledge this need and that we want to provide quality living for the middle section.”

Donald Green, a committee member who has lived within the project area most of his life, said building market-rate apartments within walking distance of a retail hub is critical to success. Build it, he said, and people will come.

“I have lived in that area since I was knee-high to a grasshopper ... but there was really nothing right there,” Green said in response to another property owner’s pleas that the city focus more on retail development than housing. “You put a housing area right there ... within walking distance (of all these stores), it will be good in that area.”