Trader Joe’s opened Friday in Tulsa and it was like Black Friday inside the store.
And if you haven’t heard, TYPros, the group that was instrumental in getting Trader Joe’s to come to town (as well as Uber) is seeking new ideas for its campaign, “Bring it to Tulsa.” You can submit suggestions through that link.
So now that we have a Trader Joe’s, what’s up with plans for the REI store?
It has been six months since the Tulsa Public Facilities Authority approved the sale of nearly nine acres of land on the southwest corner of 71st Street and Riverside Drive for construction of a retail development that was to have been anchored by the outdoor merchandise and sporting goods giant.
Yet not a spoonful of dirt has been moved on the project.
But legal maneuvering, there’s been lots of that.
On the day TPFA was to vote on the sale of the property — known to many as Helmerich Park — Tulsan Craig Immel went to court seeking to delay the vote so he and other opponents of the project could gather more information.
The vote proceeded after TPFA legal staff determined that the petition was invalid. Since then, it has been modified with additional plaintiffs and claims added.
TPFA sold the property for $1.465 million. The agreement includes a requirement that the developer deliver a specific anchor tenant, which has since been confirmed as REI.
The plaintiffs — who include former Mayor Terry Young and three others — object to the use of park property for commercial development and believe TPFA did not have the authority to sell the land and failed to follow the proper procedures in doing so.
TPFA, for myriad reasons, disagrees.
But now comes word of a detente of sorts. Gerry Bender, Litigation Division manager for the city of Tulsa, said the parties have agreed to halt their legal battle and talk. And talk they have.
“We have taken a pause in litigation in order for the parties to understand everyone’s position,” Bender said. “We — the TPFA and the city — are certainly looking forward with everyone else to see if there is a way to move forward without litigation.”
Young said he and other plaintiffs have discussed the project with the City Attorney’s Office and the developer, UCR Development of Dallas.
“What we hope to do is find a way it can work in a way that results in something that is a catalyst for the rest of the park to be developed as was originally planned in the Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan,” Young said.
That plan calls for the sand volleyball courts to remain in roughly the same area, with a recreational-oriented retail store and a restaurant to the south, Young said.
Under the existing development plan, the volleyball courts would be moved south and the commercial development would occupy the corner of Riverside Drive and 71st Street.
Young said the hope is to come up with a plan for the site that “can be a positive thing for the entire park and that translates into a positive thing for the whole river corridor.”
Bender said he has not been given the impression that REI or the developer is ready to pull the plug on the project. A spokesperson for the company declined to comment.
“No one on either side has made any threats,” Bender said. “It is progressing very cordially and cooperatively.”
Recreational Equipment Inc. is a national retailer has more than 300 stores across the United States but none in Oklahoma.
Of course, Oklahoma did not have a Trader Joe’s until the company opened a store in the Brookside neighborhood this morning.
People were lined up outside the doors waiting to get in.
Would REI receive the same welcome?
It looks like Tulsans will have to wait and see.