Millard House would like to see Langston University receive what he believes is a long-overdue allotment of land in north Tulsa.
In an email to city councilors and the Mayor’s Office, the Langston University alumnus asks the city and the Tulsa Development Authority to either allocate $28 million to the school in the proposed Vision 2025 sales tax renewal package or give the school 50 acres of land in north Tulsa.
House, a former TDA president, made the same pitch directly to the board late last year.
Langston received $8 million in Vision 2025 package passed by voters in 2003 to build an administration and classroom building at 914 N. Greenwood Ave. The $28 million the school requested for the Vision 2025 renewal — set to go to voters in April — would pay for a new healthcare professions complex directly across the street. The request has subsequently been reduced to $18.5 million.
“The City Council and the mayor enthusiastically endorsed the (original) Langston University Tulsa Vision 2025 proposal in front of over 100 alumni and we expect you to honor your verbal commitments made to Langston University,” House wrote in an email late last year. “I’m simply asking all of you to do the right thing!”
House was not speaking on behalf of the university, which declined several requests for comment.
His reference to 50 acres of land refers to a 1986 development agreement between the Tulsa Development Authority and the University Center at Tulsa Authority.
TDA is charged with promoting and assisting in the rehabilitation and redevelopment of struggling areas through private reinvestment. The UCT Authority was established in the mid-1980s to maintain land for a campus of higher education in Tulsa.
In 1986, TDA donated approximately 200 acres of land to UCT Authority to help create the higher education campus, called University Center at Tulsa. The group originally included four universities — Langston, the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and Northeastern State University — that contracted to provide academic offerings on campus.
According to House’s letter, the agreement at the time was that Langston would receive a quarter of the land donated by TDA.
“Fifty of those acres was allocated to Langston University, the only historical Black university in the state of Oklahoma,” House states in his letter. “As chairman of TDA at that time and a Langston graduate, I was enthusiastic about the donation of the 200+ acres.”
A review of the development agreement by The Frontier found no language allocating a specific number of acres to each university.
Ron Bussert, operations manager for the UCT Authority, said he’s not aware of any such land allocation.
Bussert, who also serves as vice president and chief operating officer of administrative services for OSU-Tulsa, said requests for land should go directly to the UCT Authority board.
“It is first and foremost a question for UCT (Authority),” Bussert said. “It is absolutely UCT trustees’ purview to hear such a request and then, frankly to determine if it is appropriate with the redevelopment agreement” with TDA. “Then, based upon what the request is, whether or not it simply needs to be reviewed by TDA or if it needs the approval of TDA.”
Bussert added: “We are not aware of any documentation related to an outright division of land for any of the four institutions that were in the consortium, and we have done a diligent search.”
City Councilor Jack Henderson represents the area where the UCT Authority property is located. He said he believes the issue can be resolved, but noted that his concern is that “all of the prime sites on that land are spoken for or have plans for OSU to do something with it.”
Bruce McGowan, associate vice president of academic affairs for Langston/Tulsa, said the university would like to expand its campus south and west of the school’s administration and classroom building.
Two new buildings — a school of education and a school of entrepreneurship — are being considered for the property, McGowan said.
Of the 200 acres donated by TDA nearly 30 years ago, UCT Authority has conveyed 19 acres to the OSU/A&M Board of Regents for use by Langston. The property includes about 9 acres for the administration and classroom building and 10 acres across the street where the healthcare professions complex would be built.
The UCT Authority also conveyed about 10 acres of land to the OSU/A&M Board of Regents for OSU-Tulsa’s Helmerich Research Center and North Hall.
Public television station OETA leases space from the UCT Authority as well.
The remaining property on the campus belongs to UCT Authority. That includes the approximately 14-acre site proposed for funding in the Vision 2025 renewal package. That project includes an 8-acre commercial development site and 6 acres for the OSU-Tulsa Technology Innovation Park.
The proposal, presented to councilors and the mayor last year by Bussert and OSU-Tulsa President Howard Barnett, is actually a UCT Authority project, all the orange-and-black signage on the proposal notwithstanding, Bussert said.
“Frankly …” Bussert said, “we presented it that way because nobody knows UCT (Authority).”
History of UCT Authority
- Mid-1980s: UCT Authority established in the mid-1980s to maintain land for a campus of higher education in Tulsa.
- 1986: TDA donates approximately 200 acres of land to UCT Authority to help create the higher education campus, called University Center at Tulsa. The group originally included four universities — Langston, the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and Northeastern State University — that contracted to provide academic offerings on campus.
- 1996: University Center at Tulsa merges with Rogers State University in Claremore to form Rogers University. The joint administration takes over operation of the UCT campus, which continued to include the four original schools.
- 1999: Consortium is dissolved and the Legislature passes a law designating OSU-Tulsa as the entity to provide a comprehensive public university for Tulsa and the Tulsa area.
- OSU-Tulsa and Langston are the only universities that maintain a presence on the land donated by TDA.