Urban Renewal prepares eminent domain action against owners of Santa Fe train depot in Oklahoma City

The Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority is preparing to pursue eminent domain against the owners of downtown's Santa Fe train depot after the city's $2.5 million offer was rejected and countered with an asking price of $23.5 million.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: March 6, 2013

The depot is nestled between Bricktown and downtown and is where Amtrak's Heartland Flyer starts its journey to Texas each morning and ends its return to Oklahoma each night.

The Brewers attempted several times to develop the property into a hotel and retail, but to date the only tenant is the cupcake shop Pinkitzel.

Brent Brewer said Monday the property also has provided his family with revenues from paid parking, and that a furniture store is interested in opening next to Pinkitzel.

“We've been down here for so long, we just want it to be fair,” Brewer said. “This property is important to our family. These kinds of investments are starting to make a return for us, and at the end of the day, we want to be able to support our children.”

O'Connor said she is willing to give the Brewer family “a few more weeks” to provide a copy of their appraisal. Otherwise, she warned, the city will begin condemnation of the property.

Brewer contends he was not contacted by the city until October, though in a January 2012 interview with The Oklahoman, he discussed the city's desire to acquire the depot and predicted the transaction might end up with a condemnation action.

“They've had two years to do studies and do their due diligence, and we need time,” Brewer replied. “Our appraisal is pretty close. They're the ones who seem to want to move fast. Everything is negotiable. … Right now, we just can't accept their number.”

by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter and columnist 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 Metropolitan...
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About the train depot

The Santa Fe train depot was boarded up when President Jimmy Carter ended Amtrak passenger rail service to Oklahoma in 1979. The train station was repeatedly vandalized, the ceiling caved in, and the depot became an eyesore in the next 20 years.

The late Jim Brewer bought the station in 1998 as the state was progressing in its efforts to restore passenger rail traffic. Brewer received a $1 million federal grant to renovate the station, and he agreed to provide access to Amtrak passengers under a temporary agreement that waived rent but charged the state for utilities and costs associated with use of the station.

In 2010, Brewer's son Brent locked the doors twice in the week leading up to the annual OU-Texas game in Dallas, causing travelers on Amtrak's Heartland Flyer to be diverted to vans and buses. At the time, Brewer complained state Transportation Department officials had failed to respond to his repeated efforts to draw up a new lease agreement.

The dispute ended with a lease that required the state to pay $15,297 a month for the passenger station and parking lot at the depot. The department allowed the Brewers to operate the parking lot with the two parties splitting revenues, with rates set by the Brewers.

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