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Oklahoma City Council approves economic development funding

By Tim Farley
For The City Sentinel

Oklahoma City television station Channel 9 (KWTV) will receive $2.7 million in economic development money to relocate downtown in the former Century Center.

The city council approved a measure Aug. 17 to give News9 $700,000 from one fund and $2 million from another account in its relocation effort. The money will support the television station in its bid become the first TV news outlet to operate in downtown Oklahoma City.

The station, which is owned by Griffin Communications, will relocate about 195 jobs with an average annual salary of $100,952, according to city documents. The communications company claims it will spend about $3.4 million in remodeling and retrofitting the downtown facility for News9’s broadcasts and about $7 million for broadcast equipment, information technology equipment and other expenses.

Griffin Communications President David Griffin told the council during a presentation that the TV station would begin construction in October, move into the new facility in May 2022 and hold its first downtown broadcast July 1, 2022. Griffin told the council a grand opening is tentatively set for early fall 2022.

Representatives from Griffin Communications were not available for further comment.

Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon did not return a telephone call for comment. Hamon represents the part of the downtown area where the Century Center is located.

In a 7-1 vote, the Council passed the measure to help finance the Griffin move. Councilwoman Hamon was the only no vote, and Councilwoman Barbara Young was absent.

Meanwhile, the city council made two more significant moves at its Aug. 17 meeting by approving $400,000 in economic development money for Signify Health, Inc., which has committed to establishing a new call center and bringing 224 jobs to Oklahoma City within the next five years.

Lynn Shepherd, Signify Health’s vice president of strategic communications, said the company is currently identifying space for the call center and should begin operations sometime between the fourth quarter 2021 and the first quarter of 2022.

Signify Health is a leading healthcare platform that incorporates analytics, technology and nationwide healthcare provider networks. The company’s mission is to transform how care is paid for and delivered so people can enjoy more healthy, happy days at home, according to the company website.

Signify Health coordinates a variety of medical services, including clinical, social and behavioral to address a patient’s needs and prevent adverse events that create excess cost while shifting services toward the home, the website shows.

Kyle Armbrester, chief executive officer for Signify Health, told Innovation Lab in a March 2021 interview that “healthcare was born in the home, and is now returning as a key part of the care continuum. The home is where people are the happiest, least stressed and most comfortable. By opening the aperture to have recovery in the home, we can cut out tremendous waste, lower costs and drive better outcomes.”

The Signify Health measure received unanimous approval from the City Council.

In addition, the council approved a measure totaling $7.2 million that will help Rose Rock Development Partners build a 265-unit luxury apartment complex in downtown Oklahoma City. The complex will be located at the southeast corner of Oklahoma City Boulevard and Broadway Avenue.

An estimated $1.5 million from the downtown tax increment finance (TIF) district will be used for site remediation. The location is considered hazardous with underground debris since OG&E owned the property for several years. An additional $5.7 million will be used as an annual rebate for property taxes that exceed the current valuation.

Stephen Watts, chief executive officer for Rose Rock Development, said the area has grown exponentially since the project was initiated two years ago.

“We love the area and the Omni wasn’t even constructed when we started,” he said. “And, it continues to get better with what they’re doing. It’s a walkable area and pedestrian friendly. It’s a very desirable location.”

Watts said 36 units will be considered workforce housing, which means people earning $40,000 to $58,000 will be eligible for the lowest priced apartments at $1,050 per month.

The total project cost for the eight-story building is $71 million, according to company material presented to the council Aug. 17. About 5,000 square feet of retail space will be made available on the first floor. Other amenities include a rooftop deck and terrace fitness center, multiple outdoor kitchens, indoor tenant lounge with kitchen and interior ground-floor courtyards with pool.

Construction will begin in the first quarter of 2022 and should be complete within two years, Watts said.

“We do apartments. That’s our real estate product,” he said. “All the numbers look great, occupancy levels and rent growth.”

The Boulevard Place Apartment issue was approved 5-3 with Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper, Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon and Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice voting against the measure.

NOTE: Tim Farley is an award-winning journalist whose career includes a stint at The Oklahoman.

The Oklahoma City Council approved $7.2 million in assistance to build a luxury apartment project valued at $71 million at Oklahoma City Boulevard and Broadway. Graphic provided.