The downtown tax increment finance district, which has typically been used to assist private developments, is set to help the Oklahoma City Public Schools district create a new administrative headquarters and a clinic at Emerson High School, and provide a long-needed modernization of the Capitol Hill Library.
Tax increment financing districts are created by the Oklahoma City Council and allow for increases in property taxes, known as increments, to be reinvested back into the area. The downtown district to date has allocated $75.2 million for projects ranging from garages for apartment complexes, landscaping, infrastructure and street improvements.
The downtown district also includes money budgeted for participating taxing entities, including the Metropolitan Library System, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma City Public Schools and Career Tech.
Dave Lopez, outgoing interim schools superintendent, thanked the committee tasked with overseeing the district for previously approving an allocation toward building the John W. Rex Elementary under construction downtown.
Lopez on Wednesday won unanimous approval for $1.5 million, which included about $1 million to assist in renovation of an office building at 615 N Classen Blvd. into the district’s new headquarters and $337,000 toward construction of a medical clinic at Emerson Alternative School, 715 N Walker Ave.
Lopez told the board he looked at sites for a headquarters outside the TIF district and also weighed new construction. He said both options were more expensive than buying the former bank building at 615 N Classen. Remaining at the current location, Lopez said, was not an option.
“It’s inefficient and built a century ago,” Lopez said, adding it is also in bad shape and too large for the schools operation. “For all those reasons, it became time to look for a new property.”
Lopez told the committee previous plans called for building the clinic in the school’s boiler room, but it was deemed inappropriate for young moms and moms to be. The amended plans now call for a stand-alone clinic on the school’s campus.
Emerson, he added, is an “important” school that serves students with special needs.
“It’s where students who have to have a different learning model, not always for behavior, are there, and it’s where we have our young moms,” Lopez said.
Lopez also asked for $90,000 for half of the cost of fencing and landscaping addition at Emerson similar to what was erected by St. Anthony Hospital around its parking lots, and a similar amount for such improvements around the new schools headquarters.