Juvenile lockup relocation part of renewal plan
Muskogee Phoenix (OK), 2014-02-20
Feb. 20--Urban renewal commissioners hope to finalize by mid-March a plan that would promote the commercial development of an area in northwestern Muskogee that they say has succumbed to blight.
They also approved a plan that would kick-start efforts to relocate the Muskogee County Juvenile Detention Center. The plan, which will be presented for approval by an ad hoc committee assembled to study the move, sets as its ultimate goal an August 2015 deadline for the relocation.
The detention center is within an area identified for big-box retail development. City and county officials acknowledge that relocating the facility would bolster redevelopment, but progress has been minimal since discussions began a year and a half ago.
"This may be a fairly ambitious plan of action, but we wanted to make sure this was moving," City Attorney Roy Tucker said, noting that the proposed plan needs to be approved by the ad hoc committee. "It's not overly ambitious in that it cannot occur ... so I am satisfied we are where we need to be with relation to our time."
Commissioners proposed no major revisions to the draft of the urban renewal plan, which they began reviewing in January. The draft plan outlines objectives and goals related to property acquisition, redevelopers' obligations, resident relocation, project financing and infrastructure upgrades.
Assistant City Planner Tish Callahan, however, attached a map of the urban renewal zone and an inventory of various structures within the area along with occupancy status and conditions. She will add a timeline with projections for redevelopment along with proposed policies and procedures that would govern property acquisitions and the relocation of those affected by the city's urban renewal efforts.
"That's going to be important to not only those we are talking about relocating but to the people we are going to try and attract," Ward II Commissioner Robert Goolsby said about the need to include a timeline for redevelopment. "As this gains ... momentum and public knowledge, and for the people who are living out there and the businesses, this is going to be at the forefront of their mind."
Tucker said he hopes the draft plan will be completed before commissioners meet again in March. If so, commissioners could meet in a special session to approve the draft plan, which would then be forwarded to planning commissioners for review and possible revisions.
The area designated for urban renewal is bounded by Chicago and 11th streets on the east and west and Shawnee Bypass and Talladega Street on the north and south. It has been divided into three project areas that would accommodate big-box retail development and infill commercial growth, along with residential construction to support "employment generation goals."
Rickey Hayes, a retail development consultant, said developers have expressed an interest in the residential component of the plan. Those prospective developers likely would construct amenities-based multifamily units, which Hayes and Goolsby predict would be in high demand locally.
Commissioners have completed a blight study to determine whether the area targeted for urban development meets requirements established by state law. The findings of that study must be presented to city councilors for approval before the urban renewal plan can proceed.
The Muskogee Urban Renewal Authority regularly meets at 10 a.m. on the third Wednesday of each month in the second-floor conference room at City Hall.
Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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