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Heritage Hills residents protest upcoming Oklahoma City's MidTown housing development

A group of Heritage Hills residents are challenging plans for a MidTown housing project arguing the $34 million mixed-use development will hurt their neighborhood.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: January 14, 2012

A group of Heritage Hills residents is challenging plans for a MidTown housing project, arguing the $34 million mixed-use development will hurt their neighborhood.

A string of emails circulating this week, one from Alicia and Scott Champion, another from Darci Shafer, claim developer Gary Brooks never consulted with the historic downtown neighborhood on plans for The Edge apartments, which will be built south of NW 13 between Walker and Dewey avenues.

Shafer, who owns a home on NW 14, said she only became aware of the development during a recent chat with a neighbor. In an email to dozens of neighbors, Shafer urged them to organize a protest at a meeting of the Downtown Design Review Committee on Thursday, where an application on the project's final designs is set to be considered for approval.

“We had no way of knowing this was about happen,” Shafer told The Oklahoman. “No one told any of us on NW 14 this was coming.”

Shafter said she is worried the project will cause problems with the area's power grid, water pressure and traffic. She also alleged the project was kept a secret from the neighborhood.

The Champions, meanwhile, warned fellow residents their neighborhood will be subject to rolling brownouts if the project is built, and said they would prefer to see the site built as for-sale condominiums up to three stories tall.

Development of the site has been in the works since the late 1990s after the city cleared the blighted former home of Mercy Hospital, which stood boarded-up and vandalized for a quarter century. Developer Nicholas Preftakes was originally OK'd by the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority to replace the six-story hospital with new apartments. The deal fell through when Preftakes insisted he needed more property to the south.

A second deal approved in 2006 with developer Chuck Wiggin to build upscale for-sale condominiums in a series of towers ranging from four- to eight-stories high also fell through following the collapse of economic conditions in 2008.

The Urban Renewal Authority signed a development contract with Brooks after a public competition reported on extensively by The Oklahoman. Brooks was one of four finalists competing for the Urban Renewal project, and was the only developer who was not a resident of Heritage Hills.

As residents began to voice concerns in late December, Brooks agreed to meet with them in what he said was an attempt to resolve differences. Paul Lefebvre, Brooks' attorney, said they are sympathetic to the neighborhood but added the concerns and questions brought up by residents were addressed in zoning and development decisions made by the city and the Urban Renewal Authority over the past decade.

“Once you've worked through almost the entire process, and now we're focused on questions of design from an exterior standpoint, it's difficult to go back to the very first part of the process when you're literally so many months into the whole process and approvals you have to conform with,” Lefebvre said.

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter and columnist who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's Metropolitan...
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Also ...

Oklahoma City police records show no violent crime incidents responded to in 2011 at the five-year-old, 303-unit Legacy at Arts at NW 5 and Walker. No traffic backups were observed outside the complex during morning and evening rush hours on Thursday.


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