Creek Nation tribe buys Jenks' financially-troubled RiverWalk Crossing for $11.5 million
BY ROBERT EVATT World Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
4/18/12 at 7:02 AM
Related story: Responses mixed to news of sale.
JENKS - Muscogee (Creek) Nation Chief George Tiger personally made the winning bid during the auction of RiverWalk Crossing on Tuesday.
With the $11.5 million purchase during the Tulsa County sheriff's auction, the tribe will claim ownership of the entire shopping, restaurant and office center alongside the Arkansas River in Jenks.
The sale becomes final in 30 days.
Tiger said immediately after the auction that the foreclosure sale gave the tribe the chance to expand its business holdings.
"We felt we had an opportunity to pick up a center at an excellent location and give us the opportunity to diversify our business," he said.
Additionally, the purchase allowed the tribe to add to its land holdings along the west bank of the Arkansas River, Tiger said. The tribe already owned slightly more than 25 acres between Jones Riverside Airport and the Arkansas River at 81st Street and Peoria Avenue.
The RiverWalk Crossing will continue to operate much like it has since it first opened in 2005.
"Our first move will be to look for a good management group to help attract more tenants," he said.
The number of retail tenants has dramatically thinned in recent months, leaving most of the retail portion of the center empty.
However, tenants such as Los Cabos Mexican Grill & Cantina, The Melting Pot and Marble Slab Creamery continue to operate there, and most of the office space on the second floor of the center is occupied.
Tiger said the tribe has no plans to institute gaming at RiverWalk Crossing. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation's flagship casino, the River Spirit Casino in Tulsa, is along the east bank of the Arkansas River immediately north of RiverWalk Crossing.
Tiger has said previously that the Creek Nation has an agreement with a lending institution that the Creeks will not build another gaming facility in addition to the River Spirit Casino, at 8330 Riverside Parkway, within a 50-mile radius of Tulsa.
Tiger said the decision to purchase RiverWalk Crossing was last-minute and that tribal officials worked through the weekend to put together a purchase plan. The plan was approved by the Muscogee (Creek) Nation National Council on Monday night.
The approved plan gave Tiger the authority to spend above the property's assessed value of $17 million, although the tribe's winning bid of $11.5 million was much lower.
"To get it at that price makes us ecstatic," he said.
Immediately after the purchase, Tiger had lunch at Los Cabos.
The purchase officially ends years of lawsuits over the fate of the center. Jerry Gordon, who built the center, filed suit in 2009 against TR Gardens Corp. and David Salomon, an investor in the center, alleging purposeful mismanagement.
By the next year, Salomon had assumed full ownership.
In February of 2011, American National Bank of Texas filed for foreclosure on the center, claiming that the current ownership entity controlled by Salomon, RWC Management, had failed to repay three loans totaling $28.1 million.
In February of this year, Tulsa County District Judge Rebecca Brett Nightingale ruled in favor of the bank and ordered the property into foreclosure.
Tulsa World reporter Jarrel Wade contributed to this article.
Tax status unchanged, at least for now
For the immediate future, the RiverWalk Crossing property and sales tax status will remain the same, officials said Tuesday.
County Assessor Ken Yazel said the Creek Nation would be obligated to pay property taxes on the land until it is declared sovereign land.
"Just because an Indian tribe owns it, that doesn't mean it is exempted," Yazel said. "They have to petition the federal government to get it into sovereignty."
Yazel said the county's most recent records indicate that the property was appraised at $15.4 million, meaning the owners of the property paid an estimated $220,000 in property taxes annually.
Paula Ross, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Tax Commission, said business owners at RiverWalk will continue to remit sales tax until the property is designated as sovereign Indian land.
"It has to be on tribal land, and then the tribal members would be exempt if indeed they were tribal members and it was a tribal store," Ross said.
Should the land receive sovereign designation, nontribal business owners will still be required to remit their sales taxes, Ross said.
- Kevin Canfield, World Staff Writer
Muscogee (Creek) Nation
Chief: George Tiger
Total tribal enrollment: 69,162
Total in-state enrollment: 55,591
Business details: The top-grossing business for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation is its gaming operation, with casinos in Tulsa, Bristow, Duck Creek, Okmulgee, Eufaula, Checotah, Okemah, Holdenville and Muskogee. Other top-grossing businesses include Muscogee Nation Business Enterprise and several travel plazas.
Address: 96th Street at the Arkansas River
Square feet: 175,000
Original Developer: Jerry Gordon
Cost to build: $27.9 million
Details: RiverWalk Crossing, which officially entered foreclosure in February over $28.1 million in debt, was purchased by the Muskogee (Creek) Nation for $11.5 million.
Original Print Headline: Tribe buys center
Robert Evatt 918-581-8447
Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief George Tiger stands at the Jenks RiverWalk Crossing on Tuesday. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
An aerial photo shows RiverWalk Crossing in Jenks in 2010. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World file
Several restaurants and a number of offices still operate in Riverwalk Crossing, but many retailers have left. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World file