Oklahoma Legislature's push to end tax credits threatens various historical restoration efforts

Sunday, March 13, 2016

by Steve Lackmeyer

The Oklahoman

The sale of First National Center, the most anticipated redevelopment project in Oklahoma City since the reopening of the Skirvin Hotel, is being delayed until June as the buyers await the outcome of an effort to halt historic tax credits.

The project is one of dozens across the state that were started by developers counting on the tax credits as a way to overcome what are otherwise prohibitively expensive overhauls of beloved old landmarks.

Proponents of the historic tax credits are tracking a half-dozen bills that could curtail or halt the program. The bills are being debated as the state deals with a revenue failure that will leave $1.3 billion less to spend in the new fiscal year starting in July.


In addition to First National Center, other projects relying on the continuance of the tax credits include the Sunshine Laundry conversion into a brewery and redevelopment of the historic Page-Woodson school in northeast Oklahoma City into housing and a community center.

The school at 600 N High Ave. was abandoned in 1993 and has been a blight to the surrounding John F. Kennedy neighborhood for the past 20 years. Ron Bradshaw bought the building last year with a business plan that included using $3 million in historic tax credits.

“The building is unusable,” Bradshaw said. “It has extensive water damage, extensive deterioration.”

The building, however, is a historic landmark, built in 1910 and once home to Douglass High School, a historic anchor in the black community. The $28 million development is to turn a blighted property into 128 affordable-rate apartments, a 750-seat auditorium and more than 15,000 square feet of commercial space.

“The completion of this project will kick off an additional $45 million investment in affordable and market-rate residential projects,” Bradshaw said.

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