A 60-acre tract of land once destined to become home to an outlet mall has been purchased by the George Kaiser Family Foundation with the intent of making it part of the River Parks Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness area.
The foundation paid $2.95 million for the property, land records show. The property — which includes a 55-acre tract and a five-acre tract — had been owned by the Robert E. and Dorothy S. Grant Family Trust and Beeline Sixty-One Properties, LLC.
“We were thrilled with the price,” said Bob Parker, who brokered the deal for NAI Petrous. “It was time to sell it and move on.”
The River Parks Authority’s board of directors in December approved the receipt of a $5.6 million loan from the Kaiser Foundation and QuikTrip Corp. to purchase property to expand the Turkey Mountain footprint.
The agreement calls for River Parks to use funding from the Vision 2025 renewal package to repay the loan. The Vision renewal package, which goes to voters April 5, includes $5.6 million for River Parks to use for land acquisition.
GKFF served as an intermediary in the deal, purchasing the land to hold it until River Parks can use Vision funds to buy it the land from the foundation.
“We would use a portion of that (Vision funding) to buy the land for River Parks and preserve it,” said River Parks Executive Director Matt Meyer said Wednesday.
Meyer said he did not know what would happen to the land should the Vision renewal package not be approved. But the Kaiser Foundation, which owns land directly east of the 60-acre tract, has said previously that it has no intention of developing the property it owns on Turkey Mountain.
No representative of the foundation was available for comment Wednesday.
The sale marks the end of a contentious battle between opponents of the proposed outlet mall and those who argued the mall would deliver millions of dollars in needed sales tax revenue to the city every year.
In 2014, Simon Property Group announced plans to build an outlet mall on 48 acres of private property on the northeast corner of U.S. 75 and West 61st Street.
The retail giant eventually decided to build the mall in Jenks after Turkey Mountain enthusiasts and some city councilors vigorously objected to the proposal, saying it would negatively impact the wilderness area.
“To me, the City Council really failed in their job and to look at the greater good of the community,” Parker said.
Parker said councilors showed no political will by not telling their constituents that “there may be 50 of you that are vocal (in opposition) but there are 500,000 people in this market that will shop there.”
Councilor Jeannie Cue, who represents the district in which the mall would have been built, was not available for comment Wednesday.
Parker said that since the Simon Property deal fell through last year, two other developers willing to pay top dollar for the land have come forward with viable mixed-use development proposals.
In the end, Parker said, “we took the sure deal” and sold the property to GKFF.
Parker praised the Kaiser foundation for its work on the sale but said that ultimately he believes it’s a loss for the city because of the sales tax revenue the project would have generated.
“It can work. You can develop those 60 acres and still have the rest of the park all the way to the river, all the way to Elwood (Avenue) and then have a cool place to eat, shop, whatever,” Parker said. “It really would have not only not had a negative impact but I think it would have had a positive impact on the visibility and accessibility to the park.”
The culprit, Parker said, was the Turkey Mountain activists “who don’t think through” things.
Bob Grant, now 85, purchased the land in the 1980s when at least one land planner envisioned building a golf course, office park and apartments in the area, Parker said.
“That was sort of the vision for that area,” at the time, Parker said.
Parker, who is Grant’s son-in-law, said it upset him to hear critics of the outlet mall deal portray Grant as being greedy and insensitive to the needs of the city.
“Bob Grant for 55 years has done nothing but great things for this city,” Parker said.
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