An outlet mall slated for the Turkey Mountain area is now headed to Jenks, according to an investor’s brochure from the developer and the mayor of Jenks.
The resistance has reached a clear and eloquent critical mass, a decided ripening that’s accelerated over the past few months. Simon has twice requested additional time to prepare for its meeting with the Planning Commission, which is now expected to take place June 17.
Simon was taken by surprise over the public reaction to the proposed mall. This is a company used to getting its way, particularly in cities hungry for new tax revenue. The initial pushback last fall was probably ignored,with the thought that it would subside over time. Instead, it has only grown. The online petition against the mall has nearly 8,500 signatures, and the crowds at two public forums to discuss the mall plan have been decidedly against Simon’s proposal.
This is supposed to be the wall as viewed from about halfway down the pipeline trail. It’s cute how road bikes are leisurely pedaling up what is a steep incline on a dirt road. And no helmets!! This is their idea of camouflage the wall. Perfectly spaced large trees near the top and hundreds of saplings in between whatever existing trees they decide to leave for us. Give it 40-50 years, and it’ll look great. I’ll be dead by then.
This week is turning out to be a pretty important week for people who have interest in the proposed outlet mall on the west side of Turkey Mountain.
There are two meetings – one on Monday, and another on Tuesday.
The Monday meeting is at 6 p.m. at the Zarrow Library, 2224 W. 51st Street in Tulsa. This is only for residents of Tulsa’s District. 2, and people are being asked to bring utility bills and ID to show proof of residency. Representatives from Simon Property Group, the developers of the proposed outlet mall, have said they will be there.
Then at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, there will be an open meeting at the Tulsa Marriott Southern Hills, 1902 E. 71st Street. Anyone can come to this meeting.
We highly encourage people to come, and to have questions ready. Specifically, ask city and corporate representatives these questions:
• What plans are being made to mitigate drainage problems that are expected to arise from the proposed mall property? How will the developers solve downstream pollution issues associated with drainage from the mall? There are strong concerns about how this might affect the Mooser Creek drainage, and thus the entire wilderness area.
• What will Simon do to properly blend in with the surroundings? The mall would directly overlook the Westside YMCA kids camp, and the potential is high that its mere presence (litter, noise, light pollution, sightline issues) will have a detrimental effect on campers’ experience there.
• What is being planned to deal with the guaranteed increase in traffic in the area? Current plans include widening the 61st Street bridge and just a small part of 61st Street near the mall. But it is a sure thing that traffic will increase on all of 61st Street and Elwood Avenue, as has been the case there since the opening of Tulsa Hills and the growing popularity of the Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area. Current plans seem unlikely to adequately handle that traffic.
• Why does a multi-billion-dollar corporation need taxpayer assistance to make infrastructure improvements? If this project is going to be such a great thing, shouldn’t a well-moneyed company like Simon be able to pay for the costs without giving them a tax increment finance district? Why should the city risk taxpayer funds when there is already so much retail development in that area?
Be thinking of those questions and any others you might have. They are holding these meetings to make their case, and to hear from you. Be heard. Go to the meetings and hold these folks accountable.
*note – Simon Group was invited but did not respond to the invitation.
I had lunch yesterday with a couple of other TUWC founding members and one of them made a statement that really struck me about that general area of west Tulsa becoming “retailed-out” while we are proposing to subtract from our most important urban resource: green space.
That conversation and another I had recently with a long-time west Tulsa resident led me back to the genesis of Tulsa Hills.
In early 2006 developers of Tulsa Hills, Sooner Investments of Oklahoma City, had run into unanticipated challenges in developing their site. They came back to the city of Tulsa requesting a TIF district to finance the additional costs they had uncovered. If they could not secure the additional funding, they said they woud have to cancel the project.
I for one, have thought of Tulsa Hills being a great and timely project for west Tulsa and an appropriate instance where a TIF rewarded the area with better infrastructure, more modern amenities, it has driven more home construction, and Tulsa Hills has been a proven regional draw for sales tax revenue.
I’ve been told before by a developer knowledgeable with Tulsa Hills and the proposed Simon site that the Simon site has even more challenges for site prep. So what happens when Simon decides to spring similar news on the city council after rushing their plan through in an attempt to thwart Horizon Group’s bid for an outlet mall and Simon’s proposal ends up costing even more in TIF funding than Horizon’s would have?
There’s a serious irony in this whole development which has been lost to the sands of time. In 2006, then city councilor, Bill Christiansen said he might not be able to support this TIF as he was worried Woodland Hills’ tax collection potential might be undermined by this development. Never mind that Tulsa Hills’ offerings and Woodland Hills’ were somewhat different. It would take a whole lot of convincing otherwise to prove to me that Simon was not lobbying the council against that TIF at the time.
In speaking to a long-time west Tulsa resident who backed the Tulsa Hills development, she related to me that Simon was openly sharing concern about how Tulsa Hills might damage their business six miles to the east. She sees a real irony that now Simon wants to piggyback off the success Tulsa Hills has had and go to the city with their hand out now looking for a TIF.
Finally, I came across a blog post from Michael Bates’ Batesline blog which said “A study of retail opportunities within the City of Tulsa identified this site (Tulsa Hills) and one near I-44 and 129th East Avenue as the optimum locations for a new major retail development.”
West Tulsa has gotten a windfall of related retail and residential development that is rapidly taxing the Highway 75 corridor. With all the new development to open within the next year between 71st and Jenks, the additional traffic through the I-44 and 75 interchange will be a nightmare.
When will it be east Tulsa’s turn for a development that will change its fortunes? The proposed Horizon outlet mall development also includes pad space for additional restaurant and retail space. This is the type of development that could lead an economic renaissance for east Tulsa that is long overdue.
Simon appears reluctant to share any of its 2,000 parking spaces with trail users. Instead, the company plans to go to the George Kaiser Family Foundation (one of the property owners adjacent to the proposed mall site) and see if the foundation would mind tearing up its property to put an additional 50 or so parking spaces and trailhead access. It’s been communicated to Simon that trail users do not want to sacrifice even more wild land for parking.
“I have been getting numerous emails from all over Tulsa County and the surrounding area who are not in favor of it,” Cue said.
“On this proposal, on something this controversial, the first I heard of any public outreach was in the last few days after plans had already been submitted to the Planning Commission,” Bynum said. “And I have yet to hear from a single Tulsan who likes the proposal.”
From monitoring the PRC meeting yesterday, I can say that INCOG and the city appreciate the gravity of what Simon is attempting to do and where they are attempting to do it. There are a few things they have to provide for clarification or more detail prior to this going to the full TMAPC on March 18.
Simon, thus far has avoided the local media unless it has been their own public announcements they have invited the media to. They refused to comment yesterday and last week when the YMCA finally went public with their comments on the development. Ask yourself why does Simon want to control the conversation and why are they not responding to the concerns of local citizens if they really want to be good members of the community.
Our stance has not changed, we still would prefer this development go elsewhere. This is NOWHERE close to a done deal. Simon has very high hurdles to clear.
Simon’s plan must get past the planning commission, then it must get past the City Council where your voices really count. Your representatives know the value of Turkey Mountain and so long as they know public opinion supports a pristine, undeveloped Turkey Mountain, they will act in our best interests. That’s why we need to keep emailing, calling, and need to show up when this goes before the City Council.
Simon has to explain and address the traffic issue east of their development. To date, they have no answers and meetings this week have shown there is no simple solution to the obvious reality Elwood and 61st will see a large uptick in traffic. This is a very important issue they must address as it’s in the interest of public safety on a very dangerous stretch of road.
Simon said they will be asking for tax incentives to help finance their project. Let the councilors know you do NOT support sanctioning the destruction of urban wilderness by providing tax incentives to the #1 mall developer in the world. Tax incentives to large out-of-state developers takes incentive money away from local developers who appreciate our culture and who are members of our community. Those are the developers who need help financing projects, not mega-developers with a $60 billion market cap.
Simon also has very keen competition with two other competing developments which may render this project dead at any time. Because of your emails, phone calls, and the coverage the media has provided on this issue, the city knows this is a controversial project.
We are simply providing an account of our observations on the progress of the planning process as promised. The next steps will be warm bodies at the TMAPC meeting on March 18 and the City Council meeting about a month later, unless some snags come up in their plan prior to those dates which would push it back.
Here are items that came up (please note that I am interchanging INCOG and city comments/inquiries as “city”):
-Simon has completed the traffic, geotechnical, topographical, and enviro studies. They have a plan for the 61st St. bridge but absolutely no answer for additional traffic on 61st heading east to Elwood then down Elwood Hill. I do believe these would be part of the public record and I am looking into obtaining copies.
-The city is concerned about the lighting standards they will use and if they really can minimize light pollution toward the Y and the wilderness to the east.
-The city expressed concern about the quality of run off water which will run off into Mooser Creek. It does not sound like all the engineering has been completed for the storm water system, but Simon’s engineer explained some of the natural filtration process they intend to use. Still, filtering the run off from over a million square feet of impermeable surface sounds like a daunting task. Again, that’s not my area of expertise. Simon seems to reply to many things with: “We’ve done this over 80 times with our outlet malls, we haven’t gotten this far by not learning something every time.” Basically, “Trust us to do the right thing.”
-The city does recognize that Turkey Mountain has regional and national prominence as a tourist draw. They want to make sure Simon understands this and will incorporate as many methods to respect this. I think they may have even referred to it as making it a bigger draw.
-The city advised Simon that their planned bridge over 61st Street will have to respect the SW Tulsa small area plan which called for a pedestrian-friendly bridge to connect Turkey Mountain to the neighboring areas to the west. Simon had proposed a 4’ sidewalk on the north side of the bridge, I believe the city will require a minimum of 6’. There was something in the SAP about assuring equestrian access from the Union Ave. corridor to Turkey Mountain. I’m not sure a 6’ pedestrian lane will cut it in that case. It appears to me, they may not have been aware of the small area plan, nor the Mooser Creek Study prior to now. INCOG will ensure those are respected in design
-The city has expressed concerns about pedestrian safety in the parking areas and circulator road. Obviously, this is an auto-centric project with pedestrian features once you are on-site. Any consideration to pedestrian access to the entrance of the site appears to be an afterthought at this time. The city is requiring a bus shelter for public transit access.
-The city also wants better clarification on how this project can link to the trails and consider the future use and demand for the trails. The city recognizes there is increasing interest in the recreation area. Simon thus far has been very vague on trailhead access or additional parking for trail users. This is an issue we are continuing to push and appears to have been a stipulation in the project from the beginning.