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No more public incentives for blighted properties?

by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: December 4, 2013 at 8:15 am •  Published: December 4, 2013

I hope you’ve been following the City Hall coverage by William Crum. Tuesday was a particularly challenging day for him, I imagine, with a packed council docket to follow. One of the council’s actions, creating a registry of blighted properties with the next step of charging  monthly assessments on the owners.

The city’s real estate community showed up and protested. They argued that insurance requirements and current code already addressed such concerns. Read Bill’s coverage of the debate here.

Ladies and gentlemen, I will present you with photos and information on two large historic industrial properties on the west end of downtown that are just a couple blocks away from each other. You then decide if all was fair and equal when it comes to owners of blighted buildings.

First, I present to you the Hart Building. It is slightly over 20,000 square feet. It was renovated by developer Chip Fudge and is now home to multiple firms, KOSU radio, deadCENTER  Film Center and the sandwich shop Chopt.

The 2013 property tax bill for the Hart building, 720 W Sheridan, was $17,716. The fully occupied building is not a magnet for crime, not a danger to the public, and has helped revitalize the neighborhood. It combats crime by putting people on the street. The property taxes go to schools, libraries, county and city government.

Now, our next property is the former Sunshine Laundry and Cleaners, which spans 17,000 square feet.

The roof has been missing from the old Sunshine Laundry for at least the past decade.
The roof has been missing from the old Sunshine Laundry for at least the past decade.

The old Sunshine Laundry has been subject to fire and police calls. The condition of the building has remained virtually unchanged for 20 years under the same family’s ownership. They’ve been approached by multiple parties with purchase offers for redevelopment. At one time the property was even eyed as a potential new home for Coop Ale Works.

Which property demands more attention from police and fire?

Now, recall how the owners of the Hart Building were assessed more than $17,000 in property taxes.

Guess how much the owners of the Sunshine building were assessed in property taxes? Think it’s more because of the extra demand of resources and its blight on the area? Heck no!

Owners of the Sunshine Laundry were assessed $1,533 in property taxes.

To all those who showed up to protest the blighted property registry Tuesday, I ask, how is this fair? How does this represent an acceptable situation? Why should the Sunshine Laundry owners be given the incentive – yes an incentive – to not improve their property?

The city council was not swayed by the protests. They passed the registry ordinance unanimously. Read Bill’s coverage here and here and here and here.


by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author 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...
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