new laura dester rendering

Tulsa Development Authority has received an $11 million development proposal for the former Laura Dester Children’s Center site at 1415 E. Eighth St. The project would include apartments, a mixed-used structure, town homes and cottages. Method Architecture/Courtesy

A local developer has submitted to the Tulsa Development Authority an $11 million, three-phase proposal for the former Laura Dester site that is set for demolition.

Backing the project is Amenome LLC’s Kevin Rice, who wants to convert the blighted five buildings into mixed-income apartments, build a new three-story, mixed-used structure and 14,000 square feet of new town homes and construct six to eight, 250-square-foot cottages.

Although bids already have been submitted for the demolition of the Laura Dester site at 1415 E. Eighth St., TDA staff has recommended entering into negotiations with Amenome. Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the re-development measure following the group’s presentation at TDA’s monthly meeting Thursday.

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“Tulsa really lacks diversity in housing options,” said Josh Kunkel, founder and managing principal of Method Architecture, the project’s designer. “You have lots of single family and lots of huge multi-family complexes. But there’s not really much in the middle. That’s where we’re trying to stay.”

The $5.6 million first phase would allow for about 63 units, some as small as 350 square feet. Phase II, budgeted for $2.9 million, would comprise restaurant-retail on the ground floor and two floors of office space in a combined 18,000 square feet. A total of 11, rentable (1,250-square-foot) town homes also are slated for that phase, with garages on the first floor and two stories of living space.

Phase III, estimated to cost $2.5 million, would feature 250-square-foot cottages.

“Our team, which is a very experienced team, just has a love for bringing something back to a new use,” Kunkel said. “Also, we just love Tulsa. This provides something that Tulsa really needs right now, which is workforce housing.

“As we know, the demographics are shifting to one- and two-person households, rather than families. This provides more for that market.”

Amenome plans to fund the redevelopment through private equity, bank financing and historic tax credits.

From negotiation to completion, the first phase is set to take 25 months. The timeline for the other two phases is 17 months.

The last proposed redevelopment for the area, which called for 60 to 65 loft apartments, was scrapped in March after investors realized the idea was “neither practical nor financially feasible,” TDA Chairman Roy Peters said.

Tulsa Boys Home dormitories were built at that site beginning in 1948, and the property later became the Laura Dester Children’s Center.

The state of Oklahoma sold the site to the city of Tulsa in 2015 as part of the city’s Sixth Street Infill (Pearl District) Plan, and in January 2016 the city authorized TDA to act as an agent to acquire other properties in this plan area to redevelop.

The property has long attracted transients and been a financial drain on the city’s budget for security and maintenance. Three companies have submitted cost estimates for razing the lot.

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Rhett Morgan


Twitter: @RhettMorganTW