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In a frequently contentious meeting, the City Council approved a large mixed-use development near Penn Square Mall, took action on the old city jail preservation, and discussed the futures of youth leaders.

Disagreement About Preservation

An item deferred in four previous Council meetings came on for consideration a third time. The item was whether or not to approve authorization of an application to demolish the “Old City Jail,” the old police headquarters, and the old municipal court building.

The issue at hand is that a private developer, Marva Ellard, wishes to purchase the old jail building and renovate and preserve it for multi-use.

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Certain members of the Council are not yet convinced that this is a viable project.

Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon (wife of this reporter) asked that the Council consider striking the jail building from the item so that the item could be moved forward with the other two buildings. During the contentious debate that followed, Hamon made the process mistake of not specifically making a motion for that.

Ward 8 Councilman David Greenwell said no further discussion would change his mind on the matter and quickly moved that the item be put to a vote.

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Marva Ellard, a developer who wants to transform the old city jail into a new use, argues against the building’s demolition. Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press

During discussion it appeared that Mayor David Holt brokered a deal with Greenwell and Hamon to vote on the authorization of the application in two parts, first for the former municipal court and police headquarters buildings, and separately to authorize the application for demolition of the jail building.

The Council voted to authorize the application for demolition of court and former headquarters, the two uncontested buildings. The application now goes to the Downtown Design Review Committee for a certificate of approval. If it passes that hurdle, the matter will come back to the Council twice, once to solicit a bid for demolition and a second time for a vote to accept a bid.

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Old Oklahoma City Jail at Colcord and N. Walker. Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press

Authorization for the application for demolition on the jail building and smokestack failed by a 4-5 vote. Ward 1 Councilman Greiner and Mayor Holt joined Council members Cooper, Hamon, and Nice to vote nay on the item.

The jail building survives, but its future development is still uncertain.

New Development Disagreement

A re-zoning issue for a high-density, multi-use development planned to be near North Pennsylvania and Northwest Expressway was presented by the developer and counsel. The Council approved.

The re-zoning had been unanimously approved by the Planning Commission on June 13.

On June 18, attorney David Box heard from somebody representing Penn Square Mall. Representatives of the mall had not been present at the Planning Commission meeting even though they had received notice of the development being considered.

This somehow turned into an impossible two hour discussion.

Two. Hours.

Simon Property, the company that manages the mall, represented by Robert Sheets of Phillips Murrah, claimed that their main concern was traffic.

Indeed, most protestors of this development had referred to traffic as a grave concern.

The developer had a traffic study done and that study suggested that this shouldn’t make traffic worse and that it may even improve traffic in the area.

After an exhaustive-and exhausting-conversation about how important cars are to our local culture, the item passed.

It was as long as most of the MAPS 4 presentations heard by Council over the last several weeks.

Youth Council

The meeting began with the welcoming of 18 young people who are this year’s class of the Oklahoma City Youth Council. The council consists of two high school students from each ward and two “at large” members.

The students involved get to shadow their Councilor throughout the school year and spend one full class day per month to learn about one ward and departments of the city government.


The Council voted on the following items without disagreement or much discussion:

  • Commendation of Lisa Shriver, MAPS office, on her selection as Kiwanis Club Employee of the Month
  • Appointments to Bond Advisory Committee, Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Commission, Pioneer Library System Board, Traffic and Transportation Commission
  • Revocable permit with Tyler Media Group for “Jake Jam” and “Z Fest” August 15-18
  • Revocable Right-of-Way Use Permit with Plaza District for “Plaza District Festival” on September 28
  • Relocation of parking spots along Broadway and along Sheridan

Items for Discussion

Several kind of boring things were set aside for discussion.

Robbie Kienzle of the City’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs bring a presentation on four public art projects coming to sites in the near future.

  • The first is a sculpture called Virga from Cliff Garten Studio, that will be installed at MAPS 3 site Bennett Event Center at the Fairgrounds which should cost no more than $335,000.
  • Next is interior public art for the MAPS 3 Convention Center from Susan Narduli Studio to cost no more that $1,300,000
  • For the 50th anniversary of Oklahoma City Beautiful a Joe Slack has been commissioned to install a three-dimensional median mural on North Classen between NW 7th and NW 8th.
  • Finally, an art program for the MAPS 3 Senior Health and Wellness Center No. 2. Statute dictates that money for public art may not be used for programming. To work around this statute the program will be designed by a teaching artist.

Discussion following this presentation was led by Ward 7 Councillor Nikki Nice who asked what the body may do in the future to make sure that Oklahoma artists get to do this work.

Kienzle explained that state law requires that bids for public art are open to anybody who is over age 18. The Jury simply selects what they consider the best bid. Nice said that she believed the Commission and the city had “really missed the mark” by not having local art in the two MAPS 3 sites, since they will be visited by many people from outside of our community and state.

A resolution was approved for allocation of Social Services Grant funds with several social service agencies. Nice asked how the amounts allocated were determined. Jerod Shadid of the Planning Department explained that it is a competitive grant application process. The Continuum of Care Board receives grant applications to evaluate and rank them. The allocations are based on those rankings.

The Public Works Department came on to explain a decrease of $113,742.90 for park improvements at several parks.

The decrease is due to the projects coming in under the expected costs. The scope of the projects have not changed, they’ve just been cheaper than expected. Councilwoman Hamon asked if this literally means that there is an extra $100,000 plus to be used for parks. It was explained that money that is retained will be placed in a Parks Bond Fund and that the money can only be used for parks.

Public Comment

During the time for public comment a couple named Nick and Louise Brooke brought a power-point presentation titled Emergency Public Safety Measures Needed to Address Oklahoma Permitless Carry Law.

Both are data analysts and their presentation was a data and evidence-driven explanation of the rising numbers of mass shooting (defined as shootings wherein 3 or more people die by gunfire).

They pointed out that the change in our state’s gun laws as of November 1 will legally redefine what guns can be carried.

Currently, a permitted carrier may have a loaded handgun on their person but not a loaded rifle or high-capacity rifle. That will no longer be the case as of November 1st. As of that time a person may carry any gun not banned by federal law into parks and other public places.

They closed their presentation by saying that there is a petition for a veto referendum available for signing at the law offices of Jason Lowe at 228 Robert S. Kerr Avenue, Suite 630 in Oklahoma City and at 525 S. Main Street in Tulsa.

The Brookes challenged the Council to make a resolution to support that petition and effort for the veto referendum.

The council took no action during public comment and the meeting was adjourned with no Executive Session.

Last Updated August 13, 2019, 9:10 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor