A 48-unit, four-story affordable senior housing development in Midtown is proceeding despite opposition from neighbors.
The project at 1320 Classen Drive is being developed on a property owned by the Neighborhood Housing Services Oklahoma City Inc. Director Roland Chupek said the agency will be contributing the land, where its offices now stand, to the project to help make it financially viable.
“This for us is a very exciting project as we look to housing for seniors in Oklahoma City,” Chupek said. “It became apparent to us in working with Wesley Village (also located in Midtown) and rehabbing that through our marketing studies that there is a huge need for affordable housing for seniors for independent living.”
Neighbors this week unsuccessfully attempted to persuade the city council to oppose an application for Affordable Housing Tax Credits from the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency (OHFA).
Shannon Rundell and Marva Ellard, both board members of the Heritage Hills neighborhood association, which adjoins the site, said they do not oppose affordable senior housing — but they are concerned about the location and size of the apartments.
“The building is too big, it's too tall, it's not really a good place,” Rundell said. “To get across that street (NW 13 and Shartel) is a nightmare.”
Rundell said neighbors will welcome such a project elsewhere in the area — even just a block away. Rundell said the proposed site at a six-way intersection will be dangerous for the residents and hostile to pedestrian traffic.
“We're not opposed to senior housing,” Rundell said. “We have a lot of it already.”
Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer, who represents the neighborhoods, urged fellow council members to oppose the tax credits, saying she had not heard from one resident in favor of the project.
Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid challenged Salyer and the Heritage Hills residents, saying he spoke to representatives of the nearby Unitarian Church who expressed excitement at the possibility of interacting with the senior residents.
“We're either densifying the core or we're not,” Shadid said. “We're bringing a streetcar to the area. So is the threshold that if a certain number of neighbors oppose a project, we will abide by that? Is that the policy we're now setting?”
Four other council members, James Greiner, Pete White, David Greenwell and Pat Ryan, sided with Shadid, while Mayor Mick Cornett, and council members Larry McAtee and John Pettis sided with Salyer.
Pettis noted that had the council rejected a letter of support for the tax credits, it might have led to its rejection by the housing finance agency.
“The OHFA does not like protests,” Pettis said.
Greenwell, however, urged neighbors to work with the developer on altering the project as it goes through future zoning and urban design reviews.
“Let it go through the planning process,” Greenwell said. “If there are concerns about design, that's where it should be addressed. For us to cancel the project at this stage without any approval, I think that's premature.”
This for us is a very exciting project as we look to housing for seniors in Oklahoma City. It became apparent to us in working with Wesley Village (also located in Midtown) and rehabbing that through our marketing studies that there is a huge need for affordable housing for seniors for independent living.”
Neighborhood Housing Services Oklahoma City, Inc.