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Vacant Mercy hospital site up for redevelopment after Wiggin passes

The site of the old Mercy hospital at NW 13 and Walker is back up for redevelopment after Wiggin Cos. steps aside citing current market conditions. Photo provided.

The Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority will issue a new Request for Proposals to redevelop the former Mercy Hospital property downtown, said executive director JoeVan Bullard.

Previous developer Wiggin Properties has experienced difficulty with current market conditions and offered to step aside so the property can be developed more expeditiously.

Efforts related to developing the property have dragged on for about 15 years, but Bullard said sometimes delays related to dealing with its procedures can sometimes present problems for redevelopers.

When private sector aattempts to rebuild on the site failed in the first 6 years, it became an Urban Renwal authority responsibility.

The economy plays a role. In the Mercy’s case, asbestos became an issue that delayed things early in the process. Bullard arrived at Urban Renewal in 2003.

Wiggin came along a few years later.

Of course in the last few years, the economy has created a climate of difficult financing, Bullard said.

Urban Renewal has had the property since 2001. Wiggin began efforts to redevelop it two years ago.

“You could blame Urban Renewal for a lot of things, including a few missteps, he said. “Some of the criticism is justified, some is not,” Bullard.

Additionally, the hospital building contained excessive amounts of asbestos, which is extraordinarily expensive to abate.

Wiggin had originally intended to develop high-end condominiums for sale. That market is moving slowly downtown currently, Bullard said.

The site is currently a 3.2-acre grass field, located  between NW 13th and NW 14th streets and Dewey and Walker avenues.

Bullard believes the most logical use for the land is what he terms “workforce” rental apartments which would go for about $1.25 a foot.

Mr. Wiggin said ‘I’ve had this for two years. I would be agreeable to just ending the contract today, and Urban Renewal could entertain another RFP,’ ” Bullard related. “He was really a standup guy about it.”

The Gardner Tanenbaum Group also was in attendance at the meeting and has a strong interest in the property. Bullard said the Tanenbaum has an noteworthy track record, alluding to the company’s capability fo carrying out its redevelopment plans. Tannebaum has not submitted a detailed proposal, but has submitted a letter indicating its strong interest in the site.

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