City Seeks To Transform "Blighted" OKC Neighborhood

Thursday, July 31st 2014, 7:01 pm
By: News 9

Oklahoma City is planning another transformation like Bricktown, but this time on the northeast side. The idea is to pump money into the neighborhood and return it to a thriving, commercial area.

This week, the Oklahoma City city council declared the area around NE 23rd and MLK Avenue “blighted,” which opens up funds that can be used to redevelop the area.

“I think it has a lot of potential, I really do,” said Jan Murray, who lives in the area. “I think it will make it, once we do a little bit of cleaning up, everything will be fine.”

The city council considered a new study showing the area is struggling. Population is declining in the area while the overall population of the city is increasing. Unemployment and violent crime is higher in this area, home ownership has dropped and abandoned buildings litter the streets.

“People have a lot of property around here and it's hard for your property to have any value with the crime rate like it is,” Murray explained.

A redevelopment plan would affect the entire area from NE 20th to NE 36th and from Phillips Ave. to Sooner Rd. with the primary focus on commercial development.

“We have put together a stakeholder committee of concerned leaders in the community, I think, that are going to help drive the development,” said Michael Owens with the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City.

A big part of the transformation will be King's Crossing, a $30 million development led by the owners of Buy For Less. It will include a large grocery store, as well as space for retail, office, housing and a school.

“That's the anchor, kind of, for the renaissance so to speak that we are hoping other development will spin off of that,” Owens told News 9.

The city plans to create a tax increment financing district, or TIF, to support the development. TIFs pump future property tax increases back into a designated area.

“It's been needing it for a quite a long time,” Murray said. “I've been here since '02 and it hasn't been changed.”

Construction on King’s Crossing is scheduled to begin by the end of the year. The city expects to vote on whether to develop a TIF for the area in the coming months.