LETTER TO THE EDITOR: UNP proposal a "smart move" for Norman
As a current Cleveland County Commissioner, former Norman mayor and longtime Norman resident, the wellbeing of this community is of my utmost concern. It’s why I serve as a county commissioner. It’s why I served on the city council and as mayor. I love Norman, and I love the people in my community with me.
It’s also why I supported the first University North Park TIF in 2006. Economic growth that brings money to our community is a great way to improve funding of services without raising taxes. The TIF was a way to work together and launch a project for the benefit of everyone in the community. Financially as well as conceptually, it just made sense.
The UNP is now seeking the city’s assistance to expand and add a multi-purpose, 10,000-seat arena, which would be the heart of a new entertainment district north of the current retail. Typically, this has drawn opposition. Some in town oppose growth for growth’s sake. Others feel growth in one area hurts growth in another. Well that simply isn’t the case. This isn’t a matter of choosing growth in one area vs. another; it’s about growing Norman as a whole.
From the City of Norman’s point of view, the UNP development led to a lot of growth in needed city sales tax. These taxes benefit the citizens through increased funding for vital services and amenities like parks, roads and infrastructure.
Conceptually, I loved the idea to turn undeveloped land providing no tax revenue into a healthy, successful modern retail destination. I’ve always been a proponent of making the UNP area as highly desirable a development as we can make. I have toured similar retail and entertainment districts across the country, including the facilities around the Dallas Cowboys’ practice facility in Frisco, Texas, and believe we have something special here.
This combination of financial success, with elements of entertainment, retail and living is an opportunity to be embraced.
I believe Norman will see more financial benefit through the addition of the arena and entertainment district, and residents around the county (and region) will benefit as well. The UNP arena proposal will generate substantially to ad valorem collections – estimated to be $10 million annually – which benefits our schools and CareerTechs. Without the development, the UNP land will continue to provide no ad valorem taxes.
From a quality of life standpoint, I believe this is an exciting district concept. The idea of having an area where people can walk between places to shop, eat, watch OU play, see a concert, and even live or work in the area — it’s going to be alive with people using the district. This is a concept well liked by younger members in our community, the same members who will be living here for years to come.
This is a project benefitting the whole community — and it’s the smart move for Norman’s economical development. City councilors need to strive to ensure it transforms from an exciting concept, into a very real, very tangible, very profitable endeavor. If I was still a member of the council, I know how I’d vote.