Ahmad Bahreini has an appointment in Oklahoma City Municipal Court on April 5 to answer citations for storing vehicles at his boarded-up, decades-old gas station at NW 10 and Harvey.
Such citations are not new to Bahreini, who has repeatedly paid fines for housing the cars, many of which were inoperable.
A dozen years ago, Bahreini's building was no different from those across the street. But the corner now is surrounded by former flophouses turned into upscale apartments and previously boarded-up buildings that have been renovated and filled with restaurants and shops.
County assessor records show Bahreini has owned the property since 1990, but that could change under a proposed blight plan amendment being sought by the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority.
The neighborhood itself was declared blighted by the city council in 1997 as part of an effort by the city to keep St. Anthony Hospital in MidTown, which at the time was littered with flop houses, boarded up and abandoned buildings. That plan was the start of a turn around that has seen more than $100 million plowed back into the neighborhood.
“MidTown is a dynamic area with incredible potential,” Urban Renewal Director Cathy O'Connor said. “The current North Downtown Redevelopment Plan was last updated in the 1990s and no longer reflects the current conditions in the area. The Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority is opening discussion to the public to ensure an updated plan reflects existing development and to identify new economic development opportunities.”
The plan, O'Connor said, may include a renewed focus on acquiring and redeveloping neglected properties.
“There is a possibility we will be identifying parcels that will help in the continued growth and development of the area if they are required to facilitate blight removal,” O'Connor said. “It may not just be places with code violations — others with title issues, not probated properly — that we can help with.”
The Bahreini property, she added, is an example of a potential acquisition under an amended urban renewal plan. Bahreini denied his property is blighted, but declined to say if he is proud of its appearance.
Bahreini also denied he has any inoperable vehicles on his property, though a visit on Wednesday showed cars on blocks, with flat tires, and cars with extensive body damage.
Bahreini also denied he has been cited for code violations, though city records show citations issued every year from 2007 through 2012. Records show Bahreini paid most of the citations, but with a brief exception a year ago, he has continued to store vehicles on the lot.
“Just because I went to court doesn't mean I've been cited for anything,” Bahreini said. “If they're going to single me out, they had better do it for others on the whole block. I'm not the only one.”
Bahreini added his business is a legal car sales lot.
Marva Ellard, who owns the nearby Sieber Hotel Apartments at 1305 N Hudson Ave., welcomes the prospect of a revised urban renewal plan for the neighborhood.
Properties like the one owned by Bahreini are a “hindrance,” Ellard said.
“It's not something where you want to bring potential tenants by, or large scale potential tenants in to promote the attributes of MidTown,” Ellard said. “It shows we have one foot in the future and one still in the 1970s.”
Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer, who represents the MidTown neighborhood, said she remains excited about its future, but added that in every redeveloped area she has noticed one or two property owners who fail to share that vision.
“A burned-out building, a property that isn't well maintained, has the ability to create a sense or perception of an unsafe neighborhood, which is just as bad as being unsafe,” Salyer said. “And we can't find ourselves in a position where we have buildings with vagrants living in them or being unsafe. Having a plan or process available to use in dealing with a building like that is what the city does best.”
Meeting set for Tuesday:
An Urban Renewal blight zone for MidTown was first created by the Oklahoma City Council in 1997 and covers an area bordered by NW 4, NW 13, Classen Boulevard and the BNSF Railway viaduct. A public meeting on the proposed blight amendment will be held 5:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the lobby of the Siebert Hotel Apartments, 1305 N Hudson Ave.
Amendment goals include:
— Update language in current plan to reflect MidTown development.
— Update finding of blight.
— Support the Oklahoma City University Law School move to the old Central High School at NW 7 and Harvey in Midtown.
— Support the ongoing expansion of St. Anthony Hospital.
— Identify key sites for acquisition to facilitate blight removal.
— Recommend public parks, spaces and other improvements to support increased density and appeal of Midtown as an urban, mixed-use neighborhood.
— Provide development and design concepts to contribute to the evolution of streetcar system planning.
— Provide planning concepts to stimulate private development that is pedestrian oriented.