LAWTON — Construction began this week on a much-anticipated shopping center and redevelopment project in downtown Lawton.
Kohl's will anchor the Lawton Town Center shopping center, according to the developer's marketing package, and 30 to 50 other retailers will participate.
Negotiations are under way with retailers including Bed Bath & Beyond, Shoe Carnival, Dress Barn, Famous Footwear and Petco.
Originally, the shopping center was to open this fall, but construction delays have pushed it later in the year or early 2012, said Steve Scott, project developer with Ruhl & Ruhl Commercial Co. in Des Moines.
A Main Street district is planned to attract boutiques, public art will be displayed throughout and a 176-room Hilton Garden Inn hotel with an adjacent 25,000-square-foot convention center will allow the city to host conferences and events.
“We want to create a regional shopping destination for southwest Oklahoma,” Scott said. “Most of the country is still in the throes of the worst recession we've seen. But because of Fort Sill, and growth in the defense contractor industry in Lawton, lots of great things are happening here.”
The city of Lawton has for years been buying up land in the initial 12-block area for the project, a public/private partnership; more than 95 percent of the site has now been acquired.
Downtown revitalization will continue beyond the shopping center, with a new streetscape project on Second Street and a three-mile trolley or streetcar line planned to connect the Fort Sill gate to Lawton Town Center.
City Manager Larry Mitchell said Lawton officials sought to emulate Oklahoma City's downtown redevelopment in their project.
“It means a great deal to our community because we know without a strong downtown, our ability to attract new businesses and residents is fairly limited,” he said.
He said that the Lawton area has been underserved by retail in recent years and continues to lose sales tax revenue to cities such as Wichita Falls, Texas.
“We have a lot of interest in our community, a lot of retailers in downtown. It's just a matter of putting the pieces together,” he said.