By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The economic development component of the University North Park TIF is coming to fruition. City Attorney Jeff Bryant updated the Norman City Council on the status of the TIF on Tuesday.
With the previous focus on the retail portion of the development along 24th Avenue Northwest, the proposed Corporate Center on the TIF’s north end has been an occasional side note in ongoing discussions.
The Corporate Center will encompass a business park and industrial complex on 60 acres with easy access to the nearby Max Westheimer Airpark.
The Corporate Center has not been a side note to the Norman Economic Development Coalition, as Executive Director Don Wood, his staff and the NEDC board have worked to move forward with development plans and to court potential business clients.
The NEDC purchased 30 acres within the northern section of the TIF district and is purchasing an additional 31.67 acres. That deal is expected to close this week, possibly today.
Shortly thereafter, the city council, operating as the Norman Tax Increment Finance Authority, will consider a resolution to allow for an infrastructure loan to build internal roadways to connect industrial and business park sites, as well as sewer, water and drainage improvements.
The estimated infrastructure cost for these improvements rings up at $6,285,000, but repayment sources within the first year include an Economic Development Authority grant for $2.5 million, an industrial access grant for about $350,000 and first user lot sale proceeds totaling about $1.1 million, according to city staff notes.
Having infrastructure in place will be key to enhancing the marketability of the site. Currently, NEDC has one tenant lined up and should close on that deal by the end of the year. Those negotiations are expected to come to completion this week. The tenant, so far undisclosed in accordance with confidentiality agreements, is described as a business that would bring quality jobs to Norman.
On the retail end of the TIF, Legacy Park construction should be complete by August, and the developer is obligated to bring 250,000 square feet of business to the Lifestyle Center by 2018. The frontage road extension to 24th Avenue is ready to be bid in January, Bryant said.
In other city business, council members continued discussions of the upcoming vote to renew the Public Safety Sales Tax that currently funds 71 police and fire jobs. The half-percent dedicated sales tax will expire in September 2015 unless it is renewed. The council will bring the tax to a vote for renewal.
Under discussion is whether to renew the tax for seven years, 10 years or possibly make it permanent. Also under discussion are the public safety needs above and beyond maintaining those 71 jobs.
The public safety wish list presented by Norman’s police and fire officials includes 12 school resource officers, which would be a shared wage cost with Norman Public Schools. Those officers also would need vehicles.
Deputy Police Chief Jim Maisano said a request for an additional 10 police officers for regular city duty is based on projected population growth and call volume. More cars also would be needed for master police officers.
The list of capital improvements on the public safety wish list totals $35.4 million, and only a portion of that would be covered by the sales tax. Council members discussed the possibility of general obligation bonds and revenue bonds to generate the additional funds needed.
Mayor Cindy Rosenthal proposed a public meeting to garner input from residents on priorities and other concerns.
The city council will need to finalize the ballot language and approve the resolution for a vote by the end of January.
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