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Boosters Want $20M for Tulsa Downtown Development Fund

KWGS News Photo
The downtown skyline view from the \"party deck\" at the new Oneok Field.

Downtown business owners look at a possible Vision renewal for a $20 million boost to Tulsa’s downtown development fund.

They want to bring in retail businesses, which Downtown Coordinating Council Chair Jeff Scott calls the glue that holds downtown together between meals.

"If you want people to say, 'I'm going to go downtown for lunch and then wander around and look at all the retail,' they're going to be going home 10 minutes after they finish lunch with the way it is right now," Scott said.

The development fund would be used to offer incentives to more residential projects, because retailers want to see people living in an area before setting up shop there.

"They find it interesting but not compelling that we have 40,000 people working downtown each day. They find it interesting but not really compelling that we have 4,000 dwelling units," Scott said. "Omaha has about double the number of dwelling units and people living downtown as we do. I think that needs to be our target."

Councilor G.T. Bynum said city leaders know downtown housing units are in high demand.

"You can't build them fast enough," he said. "So then the question becomes: Why do we need $20 million to encourage people to do something that it would seem the market is supporting anyway?"

Bynum said he’d prefer to use Vision money on attractions that draw developers to an area, while Councilor Anna America is wary of promoting one part of the city at the expense of others.

Councilor Blake Ewing wants more detail on the downtown development fund’s past performance. Last year, $4 million in loans were available through the downtown development fund.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.