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August 26th, 2013 - Kelley Chambers

Lariat land


Thousand acres on Will Rogers World Airport’s east side set for aviation and mixed-use projects


 

Plans for development on the east side of Will Rogers World Airport are taking flight.

The property in southwest Oklahoma City has 8,100 total acres. On that land is the airport terminal, airplane hangers, maintenance facilities, runways, parking lots and garages.

On the east side, along Portland Avenue, sits more than 1,000 acres of undeveloped land. The Oklahoma City Airport Trust and airport officials are working with the Federal Aviation Administration to use that land for aviation development with runway access as well as possible retail and mixed-use projects. It will be one piece of development efforts in south OKC connected by highways and interstates.

Elaine Lyons, president and CEO of the South OKC Chamber of Commerce, is working on a project called Envision 240, meant to spur development and find solutions to issues like walkability and creating a cohesive business district along a stretch of Interstate 240. Just to the east of Interstate 35, the owners of Crossroads Mall are overseeing a renovation to turn it into a mall and event center, dubbed Plaza Mayor, that will serve the local Hispanic community.

Both of those projects largely include existing properties. At Lariat Landing — the name given to the 1,000 acres of airport land set for development — it is literally a clean, albeit grassy slate.

The FAA regulates airports, which means any use of airport property has to pass muster with the feds, says Oklahoma City Director of Airports Mark Kranenburg. The focus is on aviationrelated developments, but the FAA is open to other uses.

“Over the last few years, more airports have wanted to do non-aviation developments to better self-sustain themselves,” Kranenburg says. “We had to go to the FAA to ask if we could do this.”

Some cities have large airports surrounded by buildings, while others have plenty of open space. Fly into Los Angeles, and it looks like the plane might have to land between hotels and office buildings. In a city like Denver, the airport is so far from the city that its downtown is barely visible on the horizon upon takeoff or landing.

Kranenburg says Oklahoma City is fortunate to have ample space for planes to land. While aircraft take off and land over residential areas, no one has airplanes roaring and shaking the ground in their backyard or the constant smell of jet fuel and exhaust.

“There are negative aspects to an airport,” Kranenburg says. “It’s important to protect the airport from encroachment of incompatible land uses like churches, schools and residential areas.”

What will work at Lariat Landing will be aviation-related businesses, and possibly retail and hotel projects.

UP, UP AND AWAY

The first step toward making Lariat Landing a reality was a strategic development plan completed in 2010. It looked at the best use for the 1,000 acres and factored in the realignment of Portland Avenue, part of the 2007 general obligation bond approved by voters that included projects around the city.

Later this year, work will begin to widen and improve Portland from S.W. 104th Street to S.W. 74th Street. This fall, the airport trust plans to go out for bid on a second piece that will extend the improvements to S.W. 54th Street. A proposed town center and retail village would be accessible near S.W. 74th and Portland and occupy about 75-80 acres.

“We wanted to take it to the next level to have not just industrial but retail and aeronautical,” he says. “We want to be as flexible as possible.”

The airport is in Oklahoma City’s Ward 3. The councilman for that ward, Larry McAtee, sits on the airport trust.

Because McAtee’s background is in manufacturing, he wants to see primary manufacturing jobs — those that create a product that is sold outside the local area but the proceeds come back home — created at Lariat Landing. He says such jobs are key to making the project a success.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to turn this unused land into an income generator for Central Oklahoma,” he says. “My whole thrust throughout this has been to make sure the ability to create primary jobs on a portion of that land is a high priority.”

Kranenburg says with infrastructure improvements, he hopes to see development begin in the next few years, but it likely will take decades to complete development of the entire 1,000 acres.

“We have this great opportunity with all this land we have,” he says.

 
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