The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 7, 2012

TIF district approved for ‘de-malling’

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Enid city commissioners on Tuesday approved a Tax Increment Finance district for the renovation of Oakwood Mall.

Supporters say the TIF will help pay for construction related to the “de-malling” project, which will convert Oakwood Mall from an indoor mall to an outdoor shopping area, adding a number of nationally known businesses and several restaurants. City officials said as part of the project, Showplex Cinema will build a 12-screen movie theater.

The project, which is expected to cost about $35 million, will include constructing of new buildings on the front side of the mall property and moving current tenants into them. The mall itself will be destroyed, except for anchor stores Dillard’s, JCPenney and Sears, which will be maintained and new facades built.

Garfield County Assessor Wade Patterson said the improvements will increase the valuation of the property from $12 million to about $30 million.

During a public hearing Tuesday on the project, Dr. David Vanhooser, a member of the TIF Review Committee, spoke against the agreement, saying Vector Properties, which plans to purchase and renovate the mall, is asking for a $4.6 million handout from the city. Vanhooser said Integris Bass Baptist Health Center built a new heart center in Enid with no assistance from the city, and CVS Pharmacy plans to redevelop a primary business corner in Enid and build a new pharmacy without asking for a “handout.”

“The city will borrow that $4.6 million from a bank to pay Vector, and it will take $7.6 million to pay it back. On top of that, the city won’t see any profit for 13 years,” Vanhooser said.

Vanhooser was outspoken as a member of the TIF committee, but voted in favor of the plan when the TIF committee approved it.

Vector will invest $30 million in the mall project, and company officials said without the TIF funding, they cannot go ahead with the project. Ward 2 City Commissioner Mike Stuber, who is chairman of the TIF Review Committee, said the city will receive funding above the baseline payment for costs from both the increased sales tax and the increased property value.

Public finance attorney Nate Ellis said 75 percent of the new ad valorem taxes will to pay debt, and 25 percent will go to the current taxing entities, including Enid Public Schools, Autry Technology Center, Garfield County and the Garfield County Health Department.

After the public hearing, which was held during the city commission meeting, commissioners approved the TIF unanimously.

Commissioners also discussed financing for the proposed parks master plan.

Park renovations would be phased in over a 10-year period at an estimated cost of $50 million. The project would be financed by a 20-year extension of a general obligation bond issue approved for bridge work and a five-year, half-cent increase in sales tax.

Jon Wolff, of Municipal Finances Inc., told commissioners the general obligation bond proposal would raise about $30 million. On a $100,000 house, taxes would be $7.40 per month in 2013 and would drop each year, averaging 5.08 mills over the term, he said.

The sales tax would raise $15,060,000 with long-term interest of $560,078 over the five years, Wolff said.

The GO bonds would be for park improvements, but the sales tax initiative could be more flexible and include street improvements along with park renovations and improvements, he said.

Under the parks plan, the city would renovate nearly all neighborhood parks and build a new community park with a number of features, including an aquatic center, at 30th and Randolph.

In the study session, commissioners heard a presentation on the bond initiative funding. Director of Engineering Robert Hitt also discussed a localized drainage plan for Washington and Chestnut, with the city sharing costs with BNSF Railroad.

City Planner Chris Bauer talked about a new ordinance to cover industrial work force housing locations. Several companies have expressed interest in building manufactured housing for temporary workers. Bauer suggested several items the ordinance would need to cover, costs the owners would pay to the city, and the length of permits.

Bauer also discussed a concept concerning a bicycle route in Enid, which would coordinate with the master trail plan. Essentially, any street the city deems appropriate for bicycle traffic would have the outline of a bicycle stenciled into the street, designating it as a bike route. New streets would be built wider to accommodate the routes, Bauer said.