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Project 180 restructuring moves forward with restored projects, new budget

2013 is a crossroads for Project 180, which is reconstructing downtown streets, sidewalks and parks.
by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: January 7, 2013 at 2:23 pm •  Published: January 7, 2013

/articleid/3743466/1/pictures/1921676">Photo - Mark Beffort at Leadership Square. <strong>Steve Gooch</strong>
Mark Beffort at Leadership Square. Steve Gooch

While the sales tax component of the financing district fell short by $10 million, ongoing discussions with Devon Energy officials and the county assessor have led to the city looking a valuation for the property that is higher than the initial $750 million estimate.

“We anticipate the total development cost to be in excess of $800 million and we anticipate finalizing that number by the end of this month,” Bryant said. “The financial picture is much better. It's a combination of things; the value of the property coming in as it is … Market conditions allow us to borrow more. Interest rates are at an all-time low for us.”

The bond funding will allow the city to pay off money borrowed from Devon to start Project 180 before the headquarters was built. With interest and money drawn on the loan, the city will pay $91.2 million.

“A year ago when we did our budget, (we) had to live within 95 million borrowing constraints,” Bryant said. “Now, we live within the constraints of the cash flow of the appraised property.”

That cash flow, along with a federal grant, is allowing the public works department to add back in some projects they looked at eliminating last year.

A $750,000 federal grant is being combined with Project 180 funding to rebuild E.K. Gaylord between Reno Avenue and Main Street. The city also will proceed with improvements to the City Hall park between Couch and Colcord Drives just west of Hudson Avenue. Both projects were in jeopardy.

Other work set to begin over the next two years includes reconstruction of Park Avenue — considered to be the most complicated of the street projects because it is lined with skyscrapers.

Improvements also are planned for seminar space at the Myriad Gardens, and pedestrian passageways that weave between Corporate and Oklahoma Towers, Robinson Renaissance and Devon Energy Center.

Better planning

Looking forward, Wenger promises that barrier walls similar to those set up around the Myriad Gardens will be used to create protected pedestrian and motorist corridors on torn up streets. Detours are being contemplated as part of design work, and contractors will be allowed to work on only two to three blocks at once.

“This will help area businesses, and it will help contractors stay focused on particular blocks,” Wenger said. “We look to be a lot more phased approach to future packages, which we didn't in the past. It may require that construction take a bit longer than in previous packages.”

Beffort said he's happy with communications to date with Project 180 planners, and is holding off on repairs to the plaza outside Leadership Square so that it can be rebuilt in a manner that complements the adjoining street and sidewalk improvements along Park Avenue.

Cathy O'Connor, president of The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City, appreciates the pain experienced with Project 180, but also believes the end result will boost downtown redevelopment.

“It's a much easier place to navigate once the streets are finished,” O'Connor said. “The two-way streets are easier to navigate whether you're on foot or traveling by car. And the change in appearance makes for a very attractive downtown. It's put downtown Oklahoma City on the radar screen for developers and commercial Realtors looking for space for national companies, and I believe we'll start to see the benefits of that.”

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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What is a TIF?

A tax increment finance district, also known as a TIF, allows a city, town or county to use tax money generated by a new development to pay for public improvements in the development area. Improvements associated with redevelopment projects can be supported by bonds, with the debt to be repaid by money generated within the TIF district. The TIF for the new Devon Tower will last for 25 years and projects were started three years ago through a $95 million loan from the company to the city that will be paid back from assessments and longer-term revenue bond financing.


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