The city is making progress on Norman Forward projects.

Since 2015, four projects have been completed and several others are either underway, in the design process or are slated for later.

There are 16 overall projects, and some include additional projects within such as the neighborhood park renovations and the public art projects throughout the city. All projects are funded through Norman Forward, a citizen-initiated proposal to renovate, expand, construct and fund quality of life projects.

Voters approved the temporary half-percent sales tax Oct. 13, 2015. The sales tax went into effect Jan. 1, 2016 and lasts 15 years.

Norman community groups and stakeholders presented a list of the quality of life projects to the city, which then lead to city council conferences and public meetings that formed the council-approved Norman Forward package. Since then the East and Central branch libraries, the Westwood Family Aquatic Center and Westwood Tennis Center have been completed.

Jud Foster, director for Norman Parks and Recreation, said each project is appointed an ad hoc committee by the council before the design process begins. Each committee meets with the design teams, gathers public input and works together to get the project within its allocated budget.

Here is the status of the unfinished projects:

Under construction

• Ruby Grant Park: This park project is south of Franklin Road between the Interstate 35 Frontage Road and NW 36th Street. Foster said this large project includes walking trails, a cross-country running facility, dog park, disk golf course, practice fields and an extensive playground with activities and equipment for disabled children.

Construction is expected to begin by the end of this month, Foster said, and is anticipated to take about a year. He said the committee, design consultants and contractor have kept it within the $6 budget.

• Andrews Park: This project’s total is $1.5 million, with $1 million dedicated to the new Blake Baldwin Skatepark located in the southeast corner of the park. A second public input meeting was held for the skatepark Nov. 25.

The project is within its budget and the plan will be finalized soon, Foster said. Design is underway, and he expects it will be finished in the next 60 days. Construction will begin this winter and should be completed some time next summer.

Renovations for Andrews Park include splash pad enhancement, shade for amphitheater seating and additional tree plantings.

• Griffin Park: On East Robinson Street, the city is working on Griffin Park in phases to remove 14 existing youth basketball/softball and four adult flag football fields and construct nine new outdoor soccer fields with lights. The project total is $11 million, and Foster said they have done small phases, mostly working to prepare the field.

The third phase is underway now, which is the construction of a plaza, restroom building and some parking improvements. Foster said they are mid-way through that process and the next phase is more field preparation work in the winter and spring for three additional soccer fields.

“The Griffin Park project started out with a total of $11 million, and it’s all still there, all still available,” Foster said. “We spent some of it on these first phases, but the entire budget will be available when its all said and done and it will be $11 million.”

Separate from that budget was $10 million to purchase the land from the State of Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, but the state is not able to sell at this time Foster said. Instead, a 30-year lease has been worked out for $2.4 million, he said, The city council created a senior center project budget with the remaining $7.6 million.

• Neighborhood Parks: Renovations will be made to 51 existing neighborhood parks such as Songbird Park and Prairie Creek Park to include new items. All projects total $6.5 million. The new neighborhood park development includes Cedar Lane, Southlake/St. James, Summit Valley, Bellatona and Redlands and Links neighborhood, which total $2 million.

“The neighborhood parks are being renovated on a pay-go basis. We are able to do two or three a year and we will just keep doing them until we go through,” Foster said. “It’s just more of a slower pace than some of these big projects.”

Foster said construction is about to start on Rotary Park and Songbird Park is midway in construction, which he said he expects to be completed in 60-90 days. According to the City Manager’s report, a park survey of residents in the Southlake and St. James additions is being finalized to get feedback for that design, and will be bid for construction over the winter and be built in 2020.

• Softball and Football Complex: Foster said construction is about to get started on city property at Franklin and NE 12th for the adult softball and flag football complex. The exact size is uncertain because the projects are still in preliminary design, but it’s going to be about 50 acres total, he said.

The $2.5 million project will include a five-field adult softball complex, eight-field football complex, lighting, restroom, concession facilities and parking. The city council approved the ad hoc committee for this project Nov. 12, and Foster said the design process will probably begin next month.

• Reaves Park: One of the sports complex projects is at Reaves Park on Jenkins Avenue, which Foster said is nearing completion. He said they expect to finish early January, but first the new park maintenance and fleet maintenance facilities have to be completed.

“The park portion of [the funds] is out of Norman Forward,” Foster said. “It’s basically three separate projects rolled into one just because they are all on the same site, and they will be next door to each other.

The project total is $10 million and involves removing six adult softball fields, the existing park maintenance facility and constructing 14 youth baseball/softball fields with lighting, restrooms, concession facilities and additional parking. Foster said the six fields for the youth baseball complex, Kidspace, Veterans Memorial and existing festival and picnic areas will remain at the park.

• James Garner Avenue extension: This project involves constructing two-lane James Garner Avenue from Acres Street north, across the Robinson Street underpass to connect with North Flood Street. Foster said the $6 million project is underway and is a project run under the Public Works department.

The first part of the project is done Foster said, which is the intersection at Acres and James Garner by the Public Library Central. The design is being worked on to take the road to Robinson and across Robinson where the railroad crossing is and it will swing over west and hook into North Flood, he said.

This project is also pending federal funding, which will be applied for in February. Foster said if they receive federal funding that will free up about $2 or $3 million out of Norman Forward.

In design

• Senior Center: The center will be in Reaves Park at the corner of Jenkins Avenue and Constitution Street, but has its own budget of $7.6 million and is not apart of the Reaves Park project. The senior center has an ad hoc committee and has held several meetings and public input meetings with the design team.

The next meeting is Dec. 3, and Foster said the design team will come back with a revised concept for a floor plan that fits within in the budget. The committee will also present a second phase, he said, that will be dependent on the city council supplementing additional money.

• Indoor Aquatic and Multi-Sport facilities: These facilities are in the same status as the senior center, Foster said. The project has an ad hoc committee and has held several meetings and public input meetings with the design team as well.

Jason Olsen, the city’s Parks and Recreation superintendent, said this project could be several million dollars short depending on the components that go inside. Construction costs have gone up since Norman Forward began, he said, but the total project cost is $22.5 million and the construction budget is $18 million.

The Multi-Sport facility is totaled at $8.5 million and the Indoor Aquatic is totaled at $14 million. Olsen said initially there were supposed to be eight basketball/volleyball gyms and a 50-meter pool, but now the budget doesn’t warrant that.

These projects were also waiting on the city council’s decision with the University North Park Tax Increment Finance District apportionments, which were ended Tuesday. The end of the UNP TIF apportionments provides an additional $2.7 million for the lands so there will be no land acquisition cost, Foster said.

The land acquisition is for both the Indoor Aquatic and Multi-Sport facility just north of the Embassy Suites hotel. Foster said those two facilities will either be connected or on the same land separately.

The next committee meeting for these facilities is Monday, and Foster said there will be another concept or two shown with some cost estimates.

Later projects

• Saxon Park: Improvements are slated for a later date yet to be determined, Foster said, at 36th Ave SE for Saxon Park. The project budget id $2 million and includes additional parking, decorative fencing, site furnishings, children’s play area, restrooms and an event shelter.

• Legacy Trail extension: The extension project is slated for a later date, Foster said, and involves a trail loop that connects segments from Ruby Grant Park, east along the Little River Corridor and south to the existing Robinson Street trail.

More information about Norman Forward projects can be found at www.normanok.gov/cm/norman-forward.

Katie Standlee366-3544Follow me @katiestandleekstandlee@normantranscript.com

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