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February 27th, 2013 - Kelley Chambers

TIF dollars approved for OPUBCO move downtown

The Oklahoma City Council passed a series of tax incremental financing measures Feb. 26, including three to help the Oklahoma Publishing Company move its offices Downtown. Another measure, the request for $500,000 in TIF funds in Bricktown, would assist in converting part of the Mideke Building in Bricktown into residential units.

Century Center
Photo by Shannon Cornman

In all, the council approved $38.9 million for 10 different projects, seven of which dealt with infrastructure.

In 2012, developer Steve Hurst purchased the Century Center Mall, 100 W. Main, for $2 million. Built in the mid-1970s, the 115,000-square-foot center was once a thriving office and retail spot — and was even once home to an FAO Schwarz toy store — but fell into decline after the oil bust in the mid-1980s. Months after the sale, OPUBCO announced plans to occupy the building.

Hurst’s purchase included two levels of commercial space at the building. The Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority owns two levels of below-ground parking, and two levels of parking on top of the building.

Council members unanimously approved $2.9 million in assistance for the project. It included $2.1 million in development financing assistance, and a low-interest loan of $800,000. Those funds were approved by the TIF review committee in December.

An additional $1 million was approved for repairs at the Century Center garage, and the COTPA-owned Santa Fe Garage. It will pay for things such as exterior changes and elevator upgrades.

“The garage spaces that are still owned by COTPA at the Century Center are in need of some rather significant repairs,” said Cathy O’Connor, president of the Alliance for Economic Development. of Oklahoma City.

Although a measure for $1.5 million of TIF money to OPUBCO for tenant improvement upgrades passed unanimously, several council members questioned why the company was getting the extra money. Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid said the move was not contingent on the company receiving that extra money. He said with most businesses if tenant improvement dollars fall short, businesses simply have to scale back their plans.

“Are we financing lavish tenant improvements which are not necessary?” he said. “I don’t believe that OPUBCO’s not going to come Downtown with or without this $1.5 million.”

O’Connor said the $1.5 million would come from an “Other Economic Development” category intended to lure a corporate headquarters Downtown. It is a performance-based reimbursement.

“They plan to make significant tenant improvements to that building and other kinds of purchases of furniture, fixtures and equipment in order to make their move to Downtown,” O’Connor said.

As a requirement for receiving TIF dollars, O’Connor said OPUBCO had to provide a 10-year occupancy guarantee. She estimated the company’s move will generate $1.3 million in sales tax and property tax over that 10-year period, in addition to other monies spent by the company and its 350 employees Downtown.

Ward 4 Councilman Pete White said with the OPUBCO project, and others partially funded by taxpayer dollars, he would like to see a plaque or some sort of recognition on buildings that they are there thanks to the citizens of Oklahoma City. City Manager Jim Couch said that could be a consideration down the road as projects are completed.

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