Hundreds of acres of land in north Tulsa set aside for the development of higher education facilities have sat dormant for decades.
Now OSU-Tulsa is proposing the construction of a technology park and complementary commercial district north and west of the school’s library on Martin Luther King Boulevard.
And they want it right away.
In fact, the university’s request for proposals gave potential developers of the commercial development just 40 days to come up with their plans.
That’s more than the 20 days required by state law but not nearly enough time to respond properly to the RFP, according to several architects and developers I’ve heard from.
Speculation regarding why OSU-Tulsa would provide such a short window has ranged from the sinister to the practical.
The sinister theory goes like this: The university has a developer in mind, so it’s simply going through the motions.
The practical theory: The university wants $15 million in funding from the upcoming Vision 2025 renewal package to kick-start construction of the technology center, so a plan in hand for the accompanying commercial development would make the project easier to sell to city councilors.
And then there is this, from a local architect: The university just doesn’t know any better.
I certainly don’t. That’s why I called around, and although most people I spoke with thought the 40-day turnaround was quick, that was not the universal opinion.
But if other government RFPs issued in the recent past are any indication, 40 days is indeed a short window to come up with the type of plans OSU-Tulsa is looking for.
River Parks Authority, for example, gave developers two months to respond their RFP for River West Festival Park. The city of Tulsa gave interested parties four months to respond to its RFP for its East Meets West Route 66 Center and 60 days to respond to its RFP for 71st Street and Riverside Drive. And when Tulsa County went looking for someone to build new pods at the Tulsa Jail, the proposal had to be back in approximately 60 days.
Sean Kennedy, communications manager for OSU-Tulsa, said the university believes 40 days is a reasonable time to respond to the RFP.
“If interested developers need more time for the RFP, they may contact us about a possible extension,” Kennedy said.
OSU-Tulsa’s proposed project hasn’t just caught developers and architects off guard.
O.C. Walker, executive director of Tulsa Development Authority, said Thursday that the organization did not learn of the RFP until it became public.
“We were not informed,” Walker said.
TDA — then known as Tulsa Urban Renewal Authority — signed a redevelopment agreement with another trust, University Center at Tulsa, in the mid-1980s to provide land for higher education, including housing and other structures related to the function of a university.
The idea was to have a number of universities use the deeded property to develop, but OSU-Tulsa and Langston are the only schools to call the property home.
TDA has deeded more than 200 acres to UCATA since the mid-1980s, Walker said. Much of it has not been developed.
Now the question for TDA’s board of commissioners is whether the deeded land — including the OSU-Tulsa technology center site — includes any “deed restrictions or anything of that nature,” Walker said.
The board met Thursday morning in executive session to discuss that issue but exited the meeting with no definitive answers.
“That is what we are in the process of researching,” Walker said.
The RFP for the Technology Innovation Park Commercial Development, as OSU-Tulsa’s proposed project is called, seeks a master developer “to develop the commercial part of the OSU-Tulsa Technology Innovation Park.”
Suggested elements for the roughly 8-acre development area include a hotel or combination of hotel/apartments; student apartments; restaurant and retail space; a two-to-three-level parking garage; other commercial ventures; and “pedestrian-friendly, welcoming green spaces,” according to the RFP.
Developers may not be getting as much time as they’d to come up with plans for the OSU-Tulsa project, but the school has been kicking around the idea for some time.
The school’s president, Howard Barnett, presented the project to city councilors in July. The presentation included a video and map of the proposed construction site.
“While the university provided suggestions for possible commercial uses in the RFP, we want to generate ideas for ways to use this land that will benefit Tulsa and the university,” Kennedy said.