MAPS 3 Passage Spurs Private Development Downtown
By Colleen Chen, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma City taxpayers voted to change the scenery of the city with $777 million from MAPS 3. However, one of the first changes downtown from the penny sales tax extension won't take a cent from the fund.
MAPS 3 is already directly spurring private development with a decision between Oklahoma City University and downtown building owners. OCU said the Fred Jones Building located near Classen Boulevard and Main Street downtown is the perfect place for expansion.
The largest law school in the state is growing, and university officials said the Fred Jones Building's 189,000 square feet of space will do wonders for the law program. The move will mean millions of dollars in downtown investments, but the private deal is one voters indirectly sealed.
"Our willingness to move was contingent on MAPS 3 passing. If the measure didn't pass, from a legal standpoint, it would have been a deal killer," said OCU President Tom McDaniel.
McDaniel said that's because the MAPS 3 projects, particularly the downtown streetcar, are crucial to a successful move. He said 750 OCU students and faculty will be using the facility and will need a way to get around the area.
"This could really be something. The jail is very close, the municipal courts are close, the federal courthouse. For a law school, that's a dream come true to be where all the legal action is. I think we'll be very proud when we look back 10 years from now," McDaniel said.
OCU signed a letter of intent to move the law school downtown as long as MAPS 3 passed. McDaniel said he watched the election numbers roll in closely. The fact it passed means OCU will contribute to the estimated $35 million renovation of the Fred Jones building. Fred Jones Hall and his family currently own the building and will continue to do so. The more OCU contributes, the less they will have to pay in rent for what is expected to be a decades long leasing agreement.
The idea of the law school move is encouraging to Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett's promise of private investment following the passage of MAPS 3.
"We believe in public and private partnership and we want to encourage that. Plus, we intend to compete with every city on the globe for the most talented young people," Cornett said.
OCU officials said they'll begin working with the building's owners on getting architecture proposals Friday and hope to break ground by the summer. City leaders said, in a way, the efforts may make it the first MAPS3 "project" to get off the ground.