The City of Edmond is moving carefully but quickly to take advantage of federally established Opportunity Zones before the opportunity application expires in 18 months.
A Downtown Edmond Workshop this week focused on seeking one more development partner on city-owned land to construct office space which the city could lease and other potential mixed-use development options.
Mayor Dan O’Neil said the No. 1 priority of a strategic plan involves a new administration building to be built on the grounds of the former police station. The old police station was recently demolished at 23 E. First Street.
“When you build something for the purpose of what it was designed for it becomes a very appropriate facility,” said Steve Commons, assistant city manager.
Commons and city council members noted that the plan could complement the larger study of city parking, and a possible performing arts center that the city has discussed in partnership with the University of Central Oklahoma. A strategic plan is to consider the future of other city-owned buildings as well.
A downtown parking garage is needed to serve Edmond’s burgeoning population and expanding downtown’s civic and entertainment growth, and population growth brings the need of expanding city staff, said city officials.
Opportunity Zones were established by Congress in 2017 to encourage long-term investment. Investors may reinvest their capital gains in census areas in order to defer taxes to pay lower capital gains, and in some cases zero capital gains on the appreciation if the property is sold within 10 years.
Councilman Josh Moore said the synergy of a public/private partnership will formulate new investment ideas.
The designated Opportunity Zone in Edmond extends north of the railroad tracks at Second Street to Edwards Street. It goes east to Ayers then follows University Drive and east to Bryant Avenue.
A 2018 updated feasibility study by local architect, Thomas Small, concluded the city needs 80,000-square-feet of office space for long-term needs.
Real estate developer and economist Koorosh Zahrai asked for the square footage of existing city office space. Commons said he will provide it. The city is renting space to accommodate its office needs. Relocating these employees into a new four-story municipal building at 23 E. First Street will streamline the communications and timelines of city staff, Commons said. The building would be 20,000 square feet per floor, Small said.
Five acres of city land along Littler Street encompasses the City First building and parking lot, Public Safety Center, former police station, City Council Chambers, and municipal court, Public Works, the Downtown Community Center (DCC), and the city-owned parking lot north of the DCC.
“It’s quite an asset for downtown Edmond when you think about it,” Commons said. “It adds value and maybe can be leveraged into something bigger.”
The marketplace will reveal the appetite for private/public partnerships, Commons said.
“I think it’s going to be a great thing for the City of Edmond,” Small said. “It’s about time we get doable office for a city of our size.”
Utilizing the Opportunity Zone with private financing will be advantageous to the city, Small continued. In 10 years the city could potentially own new properties, he added.
“Downtown Edmond, as you’re well aware, is going through a significant change right now,” Small said. Additional housing and entertainment opportunities are ripe in Edmond.
“I think you’ll find momentum from the private industry is going to be significant,” Small said.
Local architect, David Hornbeek, said the water line west of Broadway is insufficient. Improvements are needed to lure development, he said. Sewer needs to be upgraded in order to add residential units.
“I think this is a brilliant vision. I hope you all catch it,” Hornbeek said.
He said it’s important to utilize the talents of local people who are committed to the community.
Commons said the city is not averse to having teams of people use their particular expertise to put projects together.
“I think it would be great if they work with local architects,” he said.