The city has the opportunity to create something special downtown now that the former Edmond Police station has been demolished in recent weeks, City Councilman Josh Moore said at a recent council meeting.
“It leads me to think about how our own city offices are spread between multiple buildings throughout the downtown area,” Moore said.
Moore requested the city begins a strategic plan for the future of city offices and their impact on the Downtown Master Plan.
“Amen. I like it,” Councilman David Chapman said.
Chapman told The Edmond Sun that he would like to see the city focus on the best practice for land usage where the Downtown Community stands today at 28 E. Main Street.
“Our community center is inefficient at best. It’s just not what we need anymore for the city that we’ve become,” Chapman said.
The vital community functions housed at the community center need to be kept in the downtown area, he said.
PLANNING ALREADY UNDERWAY
Local architect Thomas Small was asked in 2013 to provide a preliminary feasibility study for building a new Edmond administration building to consolidate four offices currently existing in four separate buildings where Edmond residents and visitors now go for services.
Discussions have involved placing a new administration building on the grounds of the former police station which was recently demolished at 23 E. First Street.
Small’s updated feasibility study incorporates design elements specific to the City of Edmond. Its design perimeters are based on the Public Safety Center, he added. These goals remain relevant as the city envisions the future, city spokesman Casey Moore said.
Some administrative offices which were disbursed to non city-owned rental properties during the construction of the Public Safety Center would return to the site. The city has also discussed allowing food trucks to be placed at the site until plans are finalized.
Councilman Moore said the city needs to create the best atmosphere for efficiency and sustainability purposes.
“Are we creating an atmosphere that invites the best talent and encourages working relationships between departments?” Moore said.
He encouraged a customer-friendly atmosphere for Edmond residents to navigate between their utility accounts and building permits.
“I look at the age of some of these buildings, and it makes me wonder if they have come to the end of serving their purpose,” Moore said, “and at what point are we spending money toward the negative end of the spectrum.”
City Manager Larry Miller said city staff can begin studying a strategic plan for city-owned buildings. 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, Moore said.
The time is ripe for the city to consider partnering with a private investor to utilize the benefits of a federal Opportunity Zone,” Chapman said by phone earlier this week.
“An opportunity zone presents opportunities that have not existed before,” Chapman said.
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.
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.
The Opportunity Zone includes downtown Edmond and UCO, which begs for a private/public partnership, Chapman said. This is because the private citizen could build on land owned by UCO.
“But obviously you’d have to have a benefit to the state and to the city,” Chapman said.
The city would have to move fairly quickly to take advantage of the Opportunity Zone, he said, because the federal opportunity will expire in 18 months.