Mayor G.T. Bynum pitches his development plan for the southwest corner of 71st Street and Riverside Drive to city councilors Tuesday. The public meeting is at 10 a.m. in City Council chambers.
He’s not saying what that plan is, but we know what’s been proposed by the developer, UCR Development of Dallas, how that plan has changed over the last year and a half, and what the plaintiffs challenging the project in court would like to see.
There’s even drawings.
So, for a day, let’s forget about that lawsuit and instead examine the competing visions for what the parties would like to see built on the 8.8-acre tract of land.
UCR Development’s Original Proposal
The Tulsa Public Facilities Authority sold the property to UCR Development on Aug. 11, 2015, for $1.465 million with the stipulation that the anchor tenant specialize “in the sale of high-end sporting goods and outdoor merchandise.” That anchor tenant is expected to be REI.
The original site plan for the property envisioned a 7,000-square-foot restaurant with a 6,000-foot patio; a 27,000-square-foot anchor tenant; and two smaller restaurant/retail spaces totaling approximately 18,500 square feet.
The developer proposed having 589 parking spaces, nearly 200 more than required, to accommodate trail users.
The city agreed to replace the existing volleyball courts on the property with new, improved courts at another nearby location.
Latest UCR Development Proposal
The proposal to be reviewed by councilors Tuesday includes multiple changes from the first proposal, including: more landscaping, such as berms along the perimeter of the project at 71st Street, Riverside Drive and the trail system. The parking lot has been divided into smaller areas not to exceed 50 spaces and the parking areas are to be separated by 12-foot-wide sections of landscaping.
Also added were access points to the trail system, complemented by native landscaping features.
The REI building has been redesigned to provide the structure with more transparency to enable passers-by along Riverside Drive and the Arkansas River trails system to see inside the store as opposed to looking at opaque walls.
The development is not required to meet RDO standards because the project plan was approved by the city before it implement the RDO standards. However, the development was modified to meet or exceed many of the RDO standards.
The city is now proposing that all $1.465 million in proceeds from the sale of park of the park be poured back into it to pay for improvements and that new volleyball courts be built on the park property — not at a separate location.
Don Bouvier, president of UCR Development, said last year that the project must include more than an anchor tenant and a restaurant. Each development, he noted, comes with a different set of tenants, which plays a role in how much a developer can pay for a property and still make the investment viable.
“There is tons of traffic here, and tenants love traffic,” he said. “And then the setting, where it is — it’s along the trail system. This is kind of the perfect fit.”
Former Mayor Terry Young is one of five Tulsans suing the Tulsa Public Facilities Authority to prevent it from selling the land for the proposed commercial development. But the plaintiffs say they aren’t opposed to all commercial development on the property.
Young said they would welcome REI and a destination restaurant, as long as those businesses are constructed in the general locations envisioned in the 2005 Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan.
“As opposed to six or more retail operations clustered at the corner of an intersection,” Young said. The plaintiffs also believe the REI store should be designed to better integrate with the trail system along the river.
The Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan is a conceptual plan for development along the river. The plan does not require that development occur as shown in the map, nor has such a development been proposed by a private developer.
Correction: An earlier version of this story included the site plan for the proposed 71st Street and Riverside Drive development approved by the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission. The story has been updated to include the original concept plan.