City officials discuss strategy to save outlet mall

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By KEVIN CANFIELD

The Frontier

Mayor Dewey Bartlett and other top city officials met privately to try to salvage some type of deal with Simon Property Group, the developer greeted with vocal opposition when it proposed an outlet mall near Turkey Mountain.

During the meeting Thursday, officials discussed how to assure the developer that the city is interested in having a Simon mall in Tulsa and how to make it clear that the city would be willing to help find an alternate location for the project should the proposed site at 61st Street and U.S. 75 fall through.

“If they came to us and said that site would not work, then certainly we would be willing to help them find another site,” Clay Bird, director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, told The Frontier.

Bird, who attended the meeting at City Hall, stressed the the city is not trying to steer Simon away from the site near Turkey Mountain.

However, a third party has presented one option for a different location, Bird said. The site floated was Bales Park, a city-owned property at 5801 S. Union Ave. The park is across U.S. 75 from the original mall site and includes four baseball diamonds.

Under the plan, Simon would purchase the 61st Street and U.S. 75 property and swap it for the park land.

The retail giant last year proposed building Tulsa Premium Outlets on more than 48 acres of private property on the corner of U.S. 75 and 61st Street adjacent to the River Parks Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area.

The project would include more than 350,000 square feet of leasable space, according to the plans provided to the city.

The only entrance to the mall would be off 61st Street.

Many Turkey Mountain enthusiasts and other Tulsans are strongly opposed to the project, saying it would damage the popular wilderness area.

Several city councilors have also gone on the record saying they oppose the project at its proposed site.

Supporters of the mall say it would provide a quality shopping destination and bring in millions of dollars of much-needed sales tax revenue.

Following an April public meeting at which the vast majority of speakers opposed the project, officials with Simon postponed an appearance before the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission three months.

At the time, Simon said it was requesting the continuance so it would have time to address residents’ concerns.

Among those worried about the project is the YMCA of Greater Tulsa.

The mall would be built directly south of the Westside YMCA summer camp, which serves approximately 3,600 young people each year.

The YMCA of Greater Tulsa board of directors has sent a letter to Simon saying it would not support the project unless the board’s development recommendations are incorporated into the plan.

City officials hope to meet with representatives of Simon soon to discuss prospects for the mall.

Horizon Group Properties recently held a public meeting in Tulsa to announce it is moving forward with plans to construct a 95-store outlet development at 129th East Avenue and Interstate 44.

The Admiral Center Development is scheduled to be competed in 2017.

“That’s a fantastic project,” Bird said. “I would love to have both malls.”

A representative for Simon did not return a call from The Frontier seeking comment.

Kevin Canfield 918-645-5452

kevin@readfrontier.com

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