Oklahoma City has withdrawn a request to rezone a historically black northeast-side neighborhood that eventually is to be absorbed by the Oklahoma Health Center campus.
The 107-acre area bounded by NE 4 and NE 8 between N Lincoln Boulevard and N Lottie Avenue is south of the present Health Center campus.
As of last fall, there were still 100 homes in the area, 59 of them owner-occupied, and 18 church-owned lots. Entities including Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority own 54 percent of the 357 parcels.
In a series of meetings last fall and more than two dozen letters addressed to the city Planning Commission, residents opposed the idea of rezoning the entire neighborhood all at once.
They said they felt they were being discriminated against because of their race and that commercial zoning would limit their ability to sell their property at a fair price.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr., pastor of the East Sixth Street Christian Church, said residents accept the fact that the neighborhood will change as the Health Center grows.
“It's destroying another historic African-American neighborhood,” he said. “No one's trying to hit the lottery. All we want to do is be treated fairly.”
The Oklahoma Health Center campus comprises 28 medical agencies, including the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
The health center's master plan, as adopted by the city, calls for growing to the south, said Terry Taylor, chief operating officer of the Oklahoma Health Center Foundation.
The rezoning plan would have blocked new residential development in the neighborhood. Churches would have been able to expand, but no new churches would have been allowed.
No particular building or project is being delayed or canceled because of the withdrawal of the rezoning request, Taylor said.
A city planning process that gives residents a voice in decision-making worked this time around, said Ward 7 City Councilman Ronald “Skip” Kelly.
“Everybody in the northeast quadrant of Oklahoma City has lasting memories of what happened in the '60s with urban renewal,” he said. This, he said, was “probably the first time we've had this much direct engagement” from both sides in a planning dispute.
“It's something that I think everybody has learned something from,” Kelly said.