Developer of REI project chooses to extend agreement 60 days

Former Mayor Terry Young, a plaintiff in a lawsuit attempting to stop the project, described the developer and Mayor Dewey Bartlett as being tone deaf to the public's feelings about the proposed development.

This graphic created by UCR Development shows the relationship between the proposed development at the southwest corner of 71st Street and Riverside Drive and the remainder of Helmerich Park.
This graphic created by UCR Development shows the relationship between the proposed development on the southwest corner of 71st Street and Riverside Drive and the remainder of Helmerich Park.

Dallas businessman Don Bouvier has apparently not given up on his controversial plan to develop a portion of Helmerich Park.

Bouvier, CEO of UCR Development, has notified the Tulsa Public Facilities Authority that he will be extending his agreement with the authority by 60 days to continue working to get the proposed 9.3-acre development off the ground.

The TPFA voted in April to amend its contract with North Point Property Co., LLC, to provide the company with four more months to finalize plans for the project. That extension, which expires Aug. 15, includes two optional 60-day extensions that can be exercised at the developer’s discretion.

Bouvier’s decision to extend the agreement comes amid growing uncertainty about the future of the project.

A legal challenge to the deal has essentially put it on hold since Aug. 15, 2015, the day TPFA voted 3-2 to sell the property to North Point for $1.465 million. The land sits on the southwest corner of Riverside Drive and 71st Street.

The plaintiffs in the case, who include former Mayor Terry Young, challenge the authority’s claim that it owns the park land and question its authority to sell it.

A majority of Tulsa city councilors, meanwhile, told the Tulsa World last month that they would not vote to declare the proposed development site abandoned and no longer needed for park purposes — a step the plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim is required for the project to move forward.

A scheduling conference on the lawsuit that was to have taken place last week was postponed at the request of all parties.

The proposed development has drawn a lot of attention, in part because it is expected to be anchored by an REI store. Recreational Equipment Inc., is a nationwide sporting goods and outdoor merchandise company with more than 140 stores nationwide but none in Oklahoma.

The other structures included in the original development plans are a 12,000-square-foot retail/restaurant space; a restaurant with a 6,000-square-foot patio facing the river; and a 7,000-square-foot restaurant and retail space at the north end of of the property.

Young said he was not surprised by Bouvier’s decision to extend the contract but is nonetheless baffled by his insistence on moving forward with the project.

“We continue to be perplexed as to how tone deaf the developer and mayor are,” Young said.

Young pointed to two recent developments he believes reflect the community’s lack of support for the project: the city councilors’ stated unwillingness to vacate and abandon the Helmerich Park property so it can be used for development; and Mayor Dewey Bartlett’s loss in the April mayoral election.

Bartlett had strongly supported the project, though late in the campaign he altered his message to say more public input was needed before the project could move forward.

Young said he and the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit don’t intend to stop fighting,

“The lawsuit is going to pend as long we can make it pend,” he said.

Bouvier, in a prepared statement, said his decision to extend the contract confirms his commitment to the project and his belief that it would benefit the city.

“The Arkansas River is a great asset for the city of Tulsa and our design is consistent with the vision for river development,” Bouvier said. “When complete, our development will provide a meaningful economic return for the community, will provide much-needed funds to benefit River Parks, and will encourage outdoor activities on the river, the trails and Turkey Mountain.

“This development serves as a catalyst and is easily compatible to future projects on land identified in the river design overlay plan.”