Devon Seeks Funding for Downtown Improvements

Tuesday, December 2nd 2008, 9:56 pm
By: News 9

By Colleen Chen, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Devon's new tower will be the tallest building in the state and is expected to represent the future of Oklahoma City.

Once the tower is up, the skyline of downtown Oklahoma City will look much different, and if a new tax district passes the view at ground level will change dramatically as well.

The drawings of a massive skyscraper are in part the result of CEO Larry Nichols' vision for the future of Devon Energy, but the vision also includes an elementary school in an empty downtown lot, baseball diamonds, dog parks, a jogging path at the Myriad Gardens and a major overhaul of streets from SE 27 Street to NW 13 Street.

"Our streets, our parks are exactly where they were 30 or 40 years ago," Nichols said.

If Devon is granted a TIF, or tax increment finance, the projects could be paid for by tax dollars the new tower will generate. A tax district that would take the property tax and put it towards those specific uses, but not everyone agrees with the idea, including Representative Mike Reynolds (R-District 91).

"Devon is a great corporation, no one can question that," Reynolds said. "But if we give out artificial incentives to one company, why shouldn't we give them to all?"

Reynolds thinks a traditional use of the property tax would be better, sending more of the money to schools through the general fund.

"If it goes to the general fund, it will take 25 years to spend the money," Reynolds said.

If the TIF district is granted, the money would go directly to the projects outlines and city officials can use bonds to start immediately.

A portion of funds would go towards Economic Development in hopes of turning the area around the new Devon tower into a home for other global headquarters.

"If we can take money and bring more businesses into Oklahoma City, that creates a larger tax base," Nichols said. "It creates more jobs and those people have families and families go to school."

Click here to read the TIF Presentation and get a breakdown of the expenses.

The committee that oversees TIFs passed the proposal Tuesday. It now needs to be approved by the city council, which votes next Friday.