A local redevelopment group wants to breathe new life into an eyesore in the Pearl District.

The Tulsa Development Authority on Thursday OK’d starting negotiations with Amenome LLC, which has submitted an $11 million three-phase proposal for the former Laura Dester site, which could be demolished otherwise.

The plan of Amenome’s Kevin Rice is to transform five blighted buildings into mixed-income apartments, build a new three-story, mixed-used structure and 14,000 square feet of new town homes. The plan also includes constructing six to eight 250-square-foot cottages.

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“They are beautiful,” Rice said of the structures. “They are worth saving. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some people walk through them, and (they think) they’re scary.

“… It just looks like druggies have been living in there, and they have. But the bones are great. … There is a very strong historical element in these buildings to Tulsa. … It would be a shame to tear them down.”

Tulsa Boys Home dormitories were built at the 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 the area to redevelop.

The property has long lured transients and been a financial drain on the city’s budget for security and maintenance. TDA still has plans to raze the lot, at 1415 E. Eighth St., if the latest proposal fails to materialize.

“Nothing would thrill us more than for you to be successful and save those buildings,” said TDA Chairman Roy Peters, alluding to other failed attempts to do so.

“We’ve spent so much time on this proposal — years,” said Carl Bracy, a TDA commissioner. “I would like to see this work.”

The $5.6 million first phase would create 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 is 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.

“This is the absolute right thing for Tulsa right now,” said Josh Kunkel, founder and managing principal of Method Architecture, which is designing the project. “We need varied housing options that are affordable to the majority. This proposal provides that.”

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.


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Rhett Morgan

918-581-8395

rhett.morgan@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @RhettMorganTW

Staff Writer

Rhett is in his fourth decade as a reporter. He covers development, manufacturing, aerospace, entrepreneurship and assorted other topics related to the Work and Money section.