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Bricktown retail, residential development offers new vision

A drastic revision is being unveiled in plans for apartments and retail — one that may cost developers more money but one they also hope will make for a better east gateway into Bricktown.
by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: August 23, 2013 at 12:00 pm •  Published: August 22, 2013

“There have been so many things on a site like this over 150 years,” Brooks said. “It appears as if one part of the site was used as a dump at one point. It was intimidating to me … When I was first going into it, I didn't know what to expect and I was told it would take a long time to get a clean bill of health.”

Brooks isn't feeling intimidated anymore, and estimates the contamination removal will be completed by December, allowing for construction to start next April.

Planners boosted project

Brooks credits a team of planners with the city for helping make the project possible, starting with Matt Gabrielson, who helped the developers obtain $4.5 million in federal Neighborhood Stabilization funds.

Assistant planners Amanda Alewine and Chris Vargas, meanwhile, helped the developers obtain low-interest federal Brownfield loans to clean up the contamination.

“The expense of developing it, and without the Brownfield program and others, this might have been a site that might have sat vacant for another decade or longer with just the market getting it done,” Alewine said. “Banks don't typically like to lend toward properties that have contamination — they take the property as collateral.”

Alewine considers the former Stewart Metal site to be among the most challenging Brownfield sites to be redeveloped in Oklahoma City.

“This is a little more complicated,” Alewine said. “It's not that we don't have complicated sites in the city, but they haven't been tackled as this has. And this is located in a prime location for development … This has a number of agencies involved, and that also makes it more complicated. But without all this work and effort, this site wouldn't have been able to be redeveloped.”

If all goes as planned, Brooks expects the first phase of apartments and retail will be open in 2015, with plans for a hotel and a second phase of housing to follow.

Brooks credits the Urban Renewal design review process for helping him create a development that he hopes will exceed expectations, and he is no longer intimidated by the prospect of tackling contaminated properties.

“From the time we first began the process with the city and the Department of Environmental Quality to when we had signed off documents and started remediation was only seven months,” Brooks said. “It was a great surprise. I expected it to be much longer and much harder. ”

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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