The owner who closed the Smart Saver at N.E. 23rd Street and Martin Luther King Avenue is positioned to receive up to $5 million in MAPS 4 money.
While some may question the big payday, other Eastside voices are calling for it to happen for the sake of people in the neighborhoods who need development in the area.
Smart Saver, Buy for Less, and Uptown Grocery owners Hank and Susan Binkowski chose to close the store in August rather than invest to improve it and the adjoining stores in the same storefront.
Free Press broke the story with this report days before the planned closing: Only full-service grocery store on east side closing Monday
If voters approve MAPS 4 December 10, one project listed is to spend up to $5 million to purchase that and surrounding property owned by Susan Binkowski’s company, Esperanza Real Estate Investments LLC, and develop it to improve commerce on the east side.
On the OKC.gov website, under the “Beautification” project, the corner is one of 15 items listed: “NE 23rd Street and Martin Luther King Avenue, including up to $5 million for potential land acquisition and remediation of the northeast corner”
At the close of 2014, Esperanza held enough land to control development from N.E. 23rd to N.E. 26th Streets and Martin Luther King Avenue to N. Highland Drive including land between.
Only a few small properties are still owned by others in that zone.
Assessor records show that Esperanza spent from March through July of 2014 buying assorted tracts of land at the corner and going back to the north and east.
This is a map we have compiled from Oklahoma County Assessor records:
County Assessor records show that Binkowski’s company paid around $3.4 million for all the properties in 2014. Those records also show the 2019 assessed value of the properties to be around $2.1 million.
Residents on the east side have been frustrated with the lack of development at the corner for years if not decades.
The strip shopping center was established decades ago when that part of the city was still predominantly white. Then, further improvements froze once the neighborhoods around it began to integrate in the late 1960s and into the 1970s.
In a community forum about MAPS 4 recently on the Eastside, Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice talked up the acquisition. She pointed out that when comparing photos from even the 1960s, that corner had not changed since then “and it’s time it did.”
Eastside native and rapper Jabee talked with Free Press about that property Thursday.
“I would love for MAPS to get it just because … right now there is a lot of opportunity for the city to make good on a bunch of promises to the Eastside community that they haven’t held up yet,” he said.
He said he would not want some out of town organization to develop it only to take money out of the neighborhood as other businesses have done for years.
“I feel like, you know, if that means buying that block from them and flipping it and making them do some of those promises and those things that we’ve been let down with for so many years, then, you know, let’s do that instead.”
Susan Binkowski’s real estate company, Esperanza Real Estate Investments LLC, owns the immediate corner where the stores sit and acres of land behind the store for blocks north along MLK and east along N.E. 23rd.
The company effectively controls any future development of the last corner left at the intersection that is not already being used by recent development.
Susan Binkowski is the only name listed with the LLC in the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s records.
Oklahoma County Assessor’s records list the address for the LLC at a house owned by the Susan Binkowski Trust and the Susan Binkowski Living Trust.
Attempts to reach Susan Binkowski Thursday were unsuccessful.
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