By Gan Matthews, NEWS 9
Plans are being made to begin building a new bridge in Norman that would lead to the University North Park Development. A new Embassy Suites Hotel will also be built off the new stretch of road.
The 283-room hotel and conference center is nearing completion and Norman had planned to own and operate the conference center, using $15 million from a Tax Increment Financing arrangement. Recently, hotelier John Q. Hammons offered the city an alternative plan that included using almost half of that money instead to build an overpass on Rock Creek over Interstate 35.
"I think he's persuaded that the overall development of the TIF will...benefit from improved traffic flows, and I think he's persuaded that it would also be beneficial to his development to have less congestion throughout the area," Norman Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said.
The Mayor said Norman experiences major traffic problems north and south of the area, problems that an overpass would relieve.
"Our biggest concern was in the encroachment into our actual land, because we have very long parking as it is now," said realtor Sallie Vawter.
Norman said land acquisition will be to the north, leaving the businesses alone.
"I think it would be inconvenient during the construction, but I think overall it would be a good thing," Vawter said.
According to the arrangement, Norman would not own or operate the conference center.
"We think this is a win-win," Rosenthal said. "The city gets a conference center run by a professional, and we also get a bridge that is beneficial to our community."
The Embassy Suites Hotel is scheduled to open in the fall.