Improvement Assessment, Baseball Park Pushed

There were more attorneys present than property owners at the meeting.
Downtown property owners had little to say after being encouraged to step to the plate and accept the proposed 6.5-cent per SF assessment to raise the $25 million in public funds for the new Tulsa Drillers baseball stadium.
About 125 people jammed into the Summit Club on the 30th Floor of the Bank of America Building to hear an 80-minute long sales pitch for the new ballpark in downtown’s Greenwood District. Afterward, there were only two questions from the audience and none about the funding.
One property owner was overheard to mutter that opposing the assessment plan wouldn’t make any difference.
“Sounds like a done deal,” he said.
Mayor Kathy Taylor, Tulsa Driller’s owner Chuck Lamson and Metro Chamber Chair Stanley Lybarger said the 6,200-seat stadium in the northeast corner of the Inner Dispersal Loop would be a home run for all property owners.
The ballpark would be the east-side bookend for the Brady District and the Blue Dome District with the nearly complete BOk Center on the west side.
With the addition of the stadium, downtown would have the iconic arena and a renovated convention center. Those three facilities would allow a critical mass for the growth of an entertainment district, said Lybarger and Lamson.
The proposed stadium would cost $60 million, of which $30 million has already been raised in the private sector, Lybarger said.
The proposed assessment for the downtown improvement district, which will be argued by the Tulsa City Council July 10, would raise $25 million. At the same time, the increased assessment for commercial property would pay $1.1 million for downtown services like street sweeping and general maintenance.
Churches, federal property and residential developments are exempt from the assessment.
One property owner, Paul Wilson of Twenty First Properties Inc., opposes the assessment because it raises his taxes more than 700 percent.
The proposed assessment would increase from $4,895 to $44,021 annually, for 30 years — a 703 percent increase, he wrote in an e-mail to the Tulsa Business Journal.
Twenty First Properties, with property primarily in the 11th Street and Denver area, would pay nearly $1.2 million over the 30-year life of the assessment.
The proposed increase over the current improvement district at the proposed 6.5 cents per foot results in an average increase of 490 percent for the entire district, he said.
The creation of a Business Improvement District, or BID, to fund improvements related to the proposed ballpark at Greenwood, would have all property owners make annual payments at a rate of 6.5 cents per SF, times the combined land and building square feet of property inside the IDL.
The 6.5-cent assessment rate applies to every property owner, regardless of relative location to the proposed stadium.
Property owners farther away from Fifth Street and Main Street, or Bartlett Square, which is the “ground zero” location of the current assessment district, would see an increase as high as 800 percent.
“My history of support for downtown is extensive,” Wilson said. “I am supportive of the baseball stadium locating downtown (and proposed property for site consideration early on), but only under economics which make sense and are fair to everyone.”
The proposed stadium site, which sits along Interstate 244, is bounded by Elgin Avenue and Archer Street on property formerly reported to contain a future brownstone development.
According to press reports, the $30 million Greenwood Chamber of Commerce project, which was to construct 66,000 SF of office and retail space, a 100-room boutique hotel, 24 loft apartments and 32 brownstone residences on the property, will be built instead one block to the southeast.
The hotel, however, will remain and incorporated into the ballpark plan on the north side of the stadium.
The proposed stadium, which if built as planned will seat 6,200, would replace the current 15th Street and Yale Avenue facility which seats 10,997. Built in 1981, Driller Stadium is the oldest facility in the Texas League.
The project, which has yet to announce an architect or general contractor, will open in 2010.

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