An effort by developer Chuck Wiggin to retain a shot at building housing on a coveted block in MidTown were dashed Monday as the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority instead chose to award the project to the developers of nearby Legacy at Arts Quarter.
Gary Brooks and Mike Henderson prevailed with their pitch for a $28.2 million, 250-unit complex with revised designs showing a clubhouse, leasing office and 8,200 square feet of retail facing Walker Avenue. The development is scheduled for the former home of Mercy Hospital at NW 13 and Walker Avenue, immediately south of Heritage Hills.
After choosing the two finalists from five that bid for the project, Urban Renewal commissioners focused on experience in applying for financing with the backing from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the $28.2 million investment proposed by Brooks compared to the $42.6 million investment suggested by Wiggin.
Brooks and Henderson both have experience with HUD-financed apartment developments, while Wiggin is preparing to apply for his first HUD loan for a project in Tulsa.
Wiggin dismissed the suggestion by Brooks that prior experience with urban redevelopment and HUD-backed construction loans gave him an advantage in obtaining financing.
“People wonder if we have the same capability and experience in applying for HUD financing,” Wiggin said. “I would say to you that the government is equal opportunity. … We're prepared to go through this process.”
Wiggin declined to comment after the vote. Wiggin was selected by Urban Renewal in 2008 to build a $62 million, 109-unit Overholser Greens on the same site despite warnings that the project was not viable due to a declining condominium market nationwide. Brooks prevailed over Wiggin after telling commissioners he had doubts the higher-priced project would win HUD-backed financing.
“You're not picking a horse,” Brooks said. “HUD is the horse. You're picking the rider.”
After asking both teams questions about HUD financing and the costs of their projects, commissioners voted without making any statements about their choice. Russell Perry was the lone vote for Wiggin.
After the vote, a visibly tired Brooks shook hands with Wiggin. He said he had spent considerable time the past two weeks answering questions submitted by Urban Renewal staff. He said the project is a priority for him and he hopes to start construction within one year.