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June 26, 2013

Controversial high-rise, high-density residential proposal on indefinite hold

NORMAN — The Norman Economic Development Coalition leadership announced it has delayed plans to sell property at 710 Asp Ave. The sale would have allowed for a high-rise, high-density project on the site, pending Norman City Council approval.

The NEDC board voted to delay “until a well-defined vision and comprehensive plan have been developed for the Campus Corner and downtown Norman areas,” according to a position statement issued this week. “We believe that a true vision for the overall development of Norman’s core areas of Campus Corner, downtown Norman and the connecting corridor is necessary before proceeding further.”

The University of Oklahoma will play a key role in creating that shared vision. President David Boren pledged the university’s resources and support through the Institute for Quality Communities.

“I am in strong agreement with the action taken by the NEDC to encourage a more comprehensive approach to the issue of high-density housing by having a study made of the core corridor area from Campus Corner to Main Street,” Boren said. “Acting on single projects in an ad hoc fashion will make it harder to create areas of our city where all elements are considered, from parking to aesthetics to walkability to green space and streetscapes.”

NEDC’s decision comes on the heels of months of controversy surrounding the proposed mixed use, high-density commercial and residential project. Applicant Mark Risser had requested numerous postponements of the zoning change request while the city struggled to create an ordinance to allow the higher density called for in the proposal.

The project ignited a fire of protest at city hall, with opponents voicing concerns about traffic, parking and architectural compatibility.

“I think there’s been way too much focus on the single site our project has been a part of and not enough about the needs of the community,” NCED Executive Director Don Wood said.

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