Authority nixes talks on land
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Friday, August 08, 2008
6/30/09 at 3:44 PM
A master plan for a ballpark kills a devel-oper's dream.
The Tulsa Development Authority on Thursday terminated an exclusive negotiating period with a developer for land that now falls within the proposed ballpark master plan.
Meanwhile, Friday is the deadline in exclusive negotiations between the city and the Tulsa Drillers to bring the team downtown.
The Development Authority's expected action has generated controversy over the past two weeks, with developer Will Wilkins of Novus Homes LLC accusing the authority and Mayor Kathy Taylor's administration of unfair practices.
Wilkins said he spent more than $15,000 coming up with a mixed-use project for the half-block parcel along the west side of Elgin Avenue between Brady and Archer streets when no one else was interested.
His mother and partner, Cecilia Wilkins, said they realize that the ballpark plans might increase the value of the property from the out-of-date $460,000 appraisal and force changes to their project.
But authority members said they can't continue negotiations or even think about entering into a contract now that the area is in such transition.
"I'm not bound by politics," Development Authority Chairman Carl Bracy said. "I'm bound by doing what's best for the city."
Authority Vice Chairman George Shahadi said, "Circumstances have changed that clearly warrant a re-evaluation of the property and its future development."
Shahadi also noted that the money the developer had spent is part of the risk of the real estate business.
Wilkins said after the decision that he will explore his legal options.
"Obviously I'm disappointed to have been treated like this," he said.
Before the vote, an emotional Taylor said she wants the bickering to stop.
"What's happening in our city right now is an attempt at the destruction of each other instead of lifting each other up," said the mayor, who was near tears as she described her parents' small-business backgrounds.
Everyone interested in downtown revitalization should have a seat at the table, Taylor said. But the future development around the targeted ballpark site has to amount to "a beautifully woven fabric."
Taylor expressed disappointment with what surrounds the new BOK Center, citing the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office and Storey Wrecker.
With the proposed ballpark, "the time to address this is now," she said.
Novus entered into negotiations with the Development Authority in January to pursue a development called 120 Brady Village on the parcel that is owned by the authority, which is the real estate arm of the city.
Development Authority officials had approached Novus about the property after previous development efforts had fallen through.
But once the proposed stadium site was moved nearby, all of the surrounding land fell into a master development area that ballpark backers want to control.
The George Kaiser Family Foundation is assisting in the acquisition of land around the proposed stadium. The land is expected to be transferred at cost to a to-be-created public trust that would govern the ballpark.
All revenues the trust would receive from selling or leasing the parcels for development would go toward retiring the debt on the stadium and future maintenance needs, officials have said.
The ballpark plan is projected to cost $60 million, with $30 million coming from private donors and the balance from a Drillers lease and a tax assessment of downtown property owners.
Novus was notified by Development Authority officials last week that the negotiation period for the land likely would be terminated.
Authority member John Clayman said no deal was ever in place.
"No price has been agreed to," he said. "Nothing's been signed. Not one dollar has been put toward a contract.
"Right now, we need to hold off until we see what's going to happen to this very important area to the community."