In his first public appearance since his promotion, new City Manager Jerald Gilbert outlined Enid’s economic development priorities.
LodgeWell’s downtown Hilton Garden Inn, a project delayed by financing frustrations, is at the top of the list.
The Maine and Independence location, which formerly housed the historic Kress Building and Cherokee Strip Conference Center, has been vacant since those structures were razed for the project.
Construction was supposed to conclude for the four-story, 131-room hotel this year. According to the deal, LodgeWell bought the land for $10 in return for spending millions on the hotel and adjacent parking garage.
In November, we called for a viable contingency plan to be in place if the LodgeWell deal falls through. If the financing never materializes — and remaining patience runs out — the city could turn to another developer for the languishing project.
Recently, the Enid City Commission discussed the hotel during a closed-door executive session.
We expect the downtown hotel to be addressed publicly at the next commission meeting. We hope to hear more concrete developments at that time.
The second priority is the Lahoma Courts project at Cleveland and Garriott being developed by Hunt Properties. The city is helping Hunt buy homes and businesses with plans to turn the prime real estate into a top-flight retail development.
Oakwood Mall is a third priority mentioned by Gilbert. In 2012, city commissioners approved a tax increment finance district for an ambitious renovation project.
The plan by Tulsa-based developer Vector Companies to “de-mall” Oakwood and turn it into an outdoor retail facility ultimately failed last year, although Gilbert said there is another group considering revitalizing the mall.
We hope these projects start moving forward.
As the city invests public funds in private developments, measurable benchmarks with specific deadlines should be communicated.
Clearly delineated expectations will earn trust and, hopefully, create goodwill for bolder economic endeavors in the future.