The Tulsa Public Facilities Authority on Thursday voted 3-2 to amend its contract with a Dallas developer to provide at least four more months to give the company time to finalize plans for a controversial project at 71st Street and Riverside Drive.
City Manager Jim Twombly said the extension gives the developer, North Point Property Co., LLC, and opponents of the project additional time to do their due diligence.
“They (the developer) have made some changes to the design originally proposed,” Twombly said. “They have included that as part of the extension agreement.
“They’ve also included some descriptions of the changes that they have made.”
The authority’s vote extends the inspection period for the deal to Aug. 15 and provides for two optional 30-day extensions beyond that date. The inspection period was to have expired midnight Friday.
Before authority trustees voted on the amendment, authority attorney Ellen Hinchee explained that as part of the amended contract, the developer committed to “going with a different design plan.” The amended agreement also includes a “list of features that they plan to include in the development that are different than before.”
The amended agreement was not made public at Thursday’s meeting. Hinchee said it would be made available Friday after it has been executed, or signed, by all the proper parties.
On Aug. 11, 2015, TPFA 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 REI, an outdoor merchandise and sporting goods retail giant.
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 to Dallas-based North Point Property Co., LLC, for $1.465 million. The agreement includes a requirement that the developer deliver a specific anchor tenant.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit against TPFA — 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.
Nearly two dozen opponents of the project showed up at Thursday’s meeting. About 10 of them, including George Prather with the Tulsa Volleyball League, urged authority trustees not to approve the extension.
Prather told authority trustees that the volleyball courts that occupy the property are used every week night by several leagues and more than 100 teams.
“For anyone to say that that corner has been abandoned or not used is just not true,” Prather said.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett, who is an authority trustee, told Prather that the contract with the developer calls for relocating and upgrading the volleyball courts.
According to the deal, TPFA agreed to use a portion of the proceeds of the sale to move the sand volleyball courts that are now on the property further south, where they will be upgraded.
Barbara Vanhanken told trustees that it was important to maintain the city’s park space.
“Once you develop park land, it goes away forever,” she said.
The other structures included in the original development plans are a 12,000-square-foot retail/restaurant space; a restaurant with a 6,000-square-foot patio facing the river; and a 7,000-square-foot restaurant and retail space at the north end of of the property.
When it came time to vote on the amended agreement, Authority Trustees Patrick Cremins and Marcia MacLeod abstained. They voted against the sale of the property in August.
Trustees Charles Blue, George Sartain and Twombly voted in favor of the extension.
Twombly was voting on behalf of Bartlett, who entered the authority’s executive session with the other trustees but did not appear for the public vote.
City Spokeswoman Kim MacLeod said Bartlett had to leave to tend to another commitment. She did not say what that commitment was.
The Tulsa Public Facilities Authority is a public trust established in March 1981 as the Tulsa Civic Center Authority. When the authority changed its name a year later, its role expanded to promote the acquisition, construction, operation and improvement of various public facilities.