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With the hopes of deconcentrating poverty, a planned west Tulsa revitalization project is becoming a reality

Things that happen on the west side of town don’t always get the attention and acclaim that projects in other parts of the city do.

That’s about to change, and with it the lives of hundreds of residents in the Eugene Field neighborhood east of Southwest Boulevard and south of the Arkansas River.

As part of phase one of the federal Choice Neighborhoods program, 77 families have been relocated from their homes in the Riverview Park apartments, 2212 S. Jackson Ave., to better accommodations.

Over the next three years, the number of family relocations will climb to approximately 340, including the remainder of those living in Riverview Park, and the residents of the nearby Brightwater Apartments, 2202 S. Phoenix Ave.

That’s 390 apartments — 200 at Brightwater and 190 at Riverview — that are coming down. Over the next five years, they will be replaced with a mix of 460 affordable housing and market-rate units.

The new apartments will cost $184 million. Add in a new neighborhood grocery store and a new park, and the investment in the neighborhood will exceed $200 million.

The neighborhood revitalization, once completed, will be called River West.

“I don’t think you will find probably in the history of the state that level of investment for affordable housing in one project,” said Aaron Darden, president and CEO of Tulsa Housing Authority.

Darden would be the first to note that the Eugene Field Choice Neighborhoods project is not about building another affordable housing project: It’s about building a place where anyone would want to live.

“So having the opportunity to come in with that type of investment to completely redevelop and create this brand-new mixed-income, mixed-use community was just too good of an opportunity to pass up,” Darden said.

As the 17 vacated Riverview Park apartment buildings — about half the complex — come down in November, work will begin on extending four dead-end streets in the neighborhood.

The idea, said Jeff Hall, THA’s vice president of strategic planning, is to create a more walkable, connected street grid.

“A big component of the overall project is how you create more of a neighborhood feel and less of these large super blocks,” Hall said.

Tulsa Housing Authority has worked closely with affected residents to ensure that their moves go smoothly. Dedicated relocation coordinators and case managers were made available to all residents, and THA provided funding for moving fees, security deposits, utility relocations, and other associated costs.

“All of our relocation coordinators were tasked with finding communities that were a step up, had better schools, just really considered to be areas of more opportunity,” Darden said. “The whole goal was to hopefully improve their situation because of the relocation until the new community was ready for them to come back to.”

Residents relocated because of the project will have the first right to live in the new apartments when they are completed, and THA officials say interest in coming back to the neighborhood has been strong.

What they return to will include a 5-acre park and a 17,000-square-foot, full-service grocery store. The park will be constructed on land that today is best known as the parking lot for Oktoberfest, across the street from River West Festival Park. The grocery store will be inside an existing building just east of Eugene Field Elementary School.

“Neither will be necessarily opened up or be available in 2019,” Hall said. “But we do anticipate both to be underway in 2020, so those are coming.”

The city of Tulsa and THA were awarded a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods program grant last year through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation provided a $12 million grant for the project.

Other sources of funding for the project include a mortgage, low-income housing tax credit equity, private equity and debt financing.

There are many pieces to the project, and many partners. But Darden says he could not be happier with how it is evolving.

His hope, from day one with THA, has been to find ways to deconcentrate poverty in the city. He can’t think of a better way than the Choice Neighborhoods project.

“Which forces you to not only look at housing ... but the neighborhood, and just the overall people aspect of the community,” he said.

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Trump sends mixed messages to China on trade war

BIARRITZ, France — Injecting fresh uncertainty at a time of global economic jitters, President Donald Trump sent mixed messages Sunday on the U.S.-China trade war as leaders at a global summit pushed the unpredictable American president to ease frictions over tariffs and cooperate on other geopolitical challenges.

Trump’s head-snapping comments at the Group of Seven summit about his escalating trade fight with China — first expressing regret, then amping up tariff threats — represented just the latest manifestation of the hazards of the president’s go-it-alone mantra. Allies fault his turbulent trade agenda for contributing to a global economic slowdown.

Despite Trump’s insistence that reports of U.S. tensions with allies are overblown, fissures between the U.S. and six of the world’s other advanced economies were apparent on trade policy, Russia and Iran as the leaders gathered at a picturesque French beach resort.

Two days after the U.S. and China traded a fresh round of retaliatory tariffs and Trump threatened to force U.S. businesses to cut ties with China, the president appeared to harbor qualms about the trade war, which has sent financial markets tumbling.

Asked during a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson if he had any second thoughts about escalating the trade conflict, Trump told reporters, “Yeah. For sure.”

He added, “I have second thoughts about everything.”

Hours later, the White House backpedaled. Press secretary Stephanie Grisham issued a statement saying the press had “greatly misinterpreted” Trump’s comments. She said the president only responded “in the affirmative — because he regrets not raising the tariffs higher.”

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who was in the room when Trump spoke and was later interviewed by CBS’ “Face the Nation,” offered his own explanation.

Kudlow claimed Trump “didn’t quite hear the question” although reporters asked the president three times whether he had any second thoughts about ramping up the trade war and he responded three times.

At first, Trump’s admission appeared to mark a rare moment of self-reflection by the famously hard-nosed leader. The subsequent explanation fits a pattern of Trump recoiling from statements he believes suggest weakness.

Earlier this month, Trump backed off on a threat to place even tougher tariffs on Chinese imports as aides fretted about their impact on the holiday shopping season and growing fears of a recession in the U.S.

Trump had hoped to use the summit to rally other leaders to do more to stimulate their economies, as fears rise of a potential slowdown in the U.S. before he stands for reelection in November 2020.

Johnson, for his part, praised Trump for America’s economic performance — but chided the U.S. leader for his unbending China policy.

“Just to register a faint sheep-like note of our view on the trade war,” he told Trump. “We’re in favor of trade peace.”

Trump said he had “no plans right now” to follow through on his threat of an emergency declaration, but he insisted he would be within his rights to use a 1977 law designed to target rogue regimes, terrorists and drug traffickers as the newest weapon in the clash between the world’s two largest economies.

“If I want, I could declare a national emergency,” Trump said. He cited China’s theft of intellectual property and the large U.S. trade deficit with China, saying “in many ways that’s an emergency.”

For all of that, Trump disputed reports of friction with other G-7 leaders, saying he has been “treated beautifully” since he arrived.

The cracks started to emerge moments later after the French government said the leaders had agreed at a Saturday dinner that French President Emanuel Macron would deliver a message to Iran on behalf of the group.

Trump denied he had signed off on any such message.

“No, I haven’t discussed that,” he told reporters during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Administration officials said Trump was noncommittal when the leaders discussed the subject of a message to Iran during a conversation about Iran’s nuclear program.

For several months, Macron has assumed a lead role in trying to save the 2015 nuclear accord, which has been unraveling since Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement. The French went even further Sunday, inviting Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif to Biarritz in a bid to open talks meant on lowering tensions.

Trump curtly told reporters he had “no comment” on Zarif’s presence. Officials said the White House was not aware in advance of the invitation to Zarif — a further indication of Trump’s diminished role.

Trump also faced opposition from European leaders over his stated desire to find a way to re-admit Russia to the G-7 before next year’s meeting of the world leaders, which will be held in the U.S. Russian President Vladimir Putin was expelled from the former G-7 in 2015 following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

And, sitting feet away from Abe, Trump declined to forcefully condemn North Korea’s flouting of international sanctions with a recent burst of short-range ballistic missile tests, calling them “much more standard missiles.” Abe views them as a critical security threat.

Trump told reporters: “We’re in the world of missiles, folks, whether you like it or not.”

Stitt hopes to get Inhofe backing for Washington office

Gov. Kevin Stitt is hoping to persuade U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe to drop his opposition to creating an Oklahoma office in Washington, D.C.

In an interview last week, Inhofe, the dean of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation, expressed surprise that Stitt planned to open a Washington office.

“I have not heard that, and I’m surprised he would be talking about that,” Inhofe said.

“We’ve done that before. I never was very excited about it before.

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