The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

August 10, 2013

As deadlines pass, interior of Oakwood Mall remains

‘De-malling’ project still an unknown quantity

ENID, Okla. — The most recent public statement on the $35 million plan to de-mall Enid’s largest and historically diverse retail structure came in June, with the developer saying there wasn’t much news to report.

It seems that’s still the case.

Aside from the recent construction on a free-standing Chick-fil-A restaurant on the mall’s outer footprint, the long-awaited finalization of the de-malling project still is an unknown quantity.

Vector Properties President Brenda Dill, who is overseeing the renovations, has not returned several phone messages seeking a comment on the mall’s status.

Jason Bost, who manages current mall operations for J. Herzog & Sons’ asset management bureau, similarly could not be reached.

Vector Properties’ local handler during the transition, Brad Waken, directed queries back to Dill.

The Tulsa-based real estate development company hasn’t taken the bigger steps of announcing their final plans, apparently because there is a significant benchmark they haven’t met yet. In June, Dill said her firm still was seeking financial backing to help cover the expected costs of turning Oakwood Mall into an outdoor shopping center.

“It’s all kind of speculative until we can secure the financing” or a partner on the venture, Dill told the Enid News & Eagle.

If Vector gets that funding through a bank loan, they must first guarantee retail contracts for 85 percent of the roughly 550,000-square-foot project, Dill previously said publicly.

Another funding source for the project will come from what’s called a Tax Increment Finance District, which was approved by the city last year.

The TIF district allows Vector to make improvements without paying higher property taxes. Those savings would be used to defray costs.

Garfield County Assessor Wade Patterson has estimated the improvements would increase his valuation of the property from $12 million to about $30 million.

Many of the businesses that currently are inside the mall were expected to move into new retail spaces that front along Garriott. Dirt work on one of those, Chick-fil-A, began late last month. Owner-operator Connie Sturgeon-Hart got the site plan approved by the city in January for the 162-seat restaurant.

Dill previously has urged the importance of keeping the mall’s “anchor” stores, Dillards, Sears and JCPenney, which make up half of the retail space on the mall’s grounds.

A spokesman for Sears confirmed Friday that the company still is negotiating with Vector.

“We had an initial conversation with the developer about the proposed project. We look forward to obtaining a better understanding of the project, and that process has just recently commenced,” said Corporate Communications Director Howard Riefs.

Enid City Manager Eric Benson said there was little he could discuss about the plan.

“The ball’s in their court, and I know they’re aggressively pursuing the things they need to,” he said Friday.

An initial timeline of development that Vector released when they announced the project last year predicted that demolition on the indoor areas of the mall would have begun in July, with completion of the project in June 2014.

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