by Steve Lackmeyer

The Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust is set to decide next week whether to solicit development proposals to wrap housing and retail around a garage to be built next to the new convention center and Omni Hotel.

The block, bounded by E.K. Gaylord Boulevard, SW 3, SW 4 and the Oklahoma City Boulevard, is currently home to the OGE Energy Corp. data center. The city council in December approved the $14 million purchase of the property with relocation of the data center to be completed by March 2019.

The solicitation of developers will be overseen by the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority. Urban Renewal director Cathy O'Connor said she anticipates the advertisement for development proposals, if approved Tuesday by the Economic Development Trust, will be published within the next month.

“We have been working with the city and OGE for a year or so to acquire this property from OGE to build a garage to serve the new Scissortail Park, the Omni and the convention center,” O'Connor said. “At the end of the day, the city decided it was better for Economic Development Trust to acquire the property and for Urban Renewal to manage development of the property.”

O'Connor said the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority will likely build the garage first with development of apartments and retail to follow. O'Connor said “several developers” have indicated they are interested in the project.

Design has yet to start on the 850-space garage, but O'Connor wants a developer chosen within the next six months so that planning for the housing and retail can be coordinated with the garage design.

During the Downtown Year in Review panel discussion hosted last month by The Oklahoman, Eric Friend, director of acquisitions and development with Omni, said the possibility of affordable workforce housing next to the hotel would be “fantastic.”