Muskogee Downtown Plan Steering Committee Minutes
January 4, 2017, 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm
Neighbors Building Neighborhoods Non-Profit Resource Center
207 North 2nd Street, Muskogee, OK 74401
Committee Members Present:
Gary Garvin – City of Muskogee Director of Planning
Wren Stratton, Committee Chair – Depot District
Johni Wardwell – Muskogee Community Foundation
Darla Bennett – City of Muskogee Economic Development Coordinator
Reggie Cotton – Muskogee Police Department
Mayor Bob Coburn – Mayor
Ron Drake – Downtown Consultant
Mark Wilkerson – City of Muskogee Parks Director
Doug Walton – Muskogee Health Department
Sig Schoonover – Citizen
Mary Kay Martin – Citizen
Brandon Garner – Muskogee Police Department Community Resource Officer
Mike Miller – City Manager
Mike Stewart – Assistant City Manager
The project is about halfway complete. The team is moving into design explorations and preparing for the Arrowhead Mall Design Competition, which will take place from February 1 – March 1 with a group of 20 students and 7 faculty from the OU College of Architecture.
Pathways for Achieving Goals
Goals included in the study include increasing downtown activity; improving connections; saving historic buildings; revitalizing Arrowhead Mall; and introducing green spaces.
The group focused on priorities for a potential grant program. Gary Garvin presented a stackable series of funding categories administered by the Planning Department as grants or low-interest loans. Incentivizing downtown residential beyond current loft housing incentives is one of the main priorities for the city.
Funding categories included the following:
- Upper Floors: Funding would be prioritized to incentivize development of vacant upper floors in downtown buildings. There is a desire to be aggressive with per-unit or matching incentives for residential uses. Could office also be included as part of this?
- Business Incentives: Funding would expand economic development downtown, focusing on businesses that produce sales tax. Used for start-up costs for a business, or may be used for expansion of an existing business. The committee wondered if criteria should be included for incentivized businesses. For example, it should be required to be a new business and to be open during certain minimum days and hours. More criteria may be needed.
- Restoration/Beautification: The funding would particularly focus on matching funds to restore facades to historic condition with planning department approvals.
- Retail Assistance: Small grants might be used to improve the appearance of existing businesses, or the visitor experience of a business- Windows, paint, tables and chairs, small grant, etc.
- Downtown Building Stabilization: This would focus on structural engineering review of important historic buildings and necessary repairs to stabilize the building to stop deterioration or address code and safety issues. The committee was concerned that this project could eat up a lot of money, but at the same time, this could kick off a major project.
- Signs: Funds would encourage businesses to add blade signs.
- Feasibility Program: Many potential developers need help determining feasibility of conceptual projects. Some funding may be needed to allow building owners or potential buyers to conduct feasibility studies and create business plans. Additionally, developers workshops might be a good resource to meet this need.
In an exercise determining priorities among all of these categories, upper floor grants, business incentive grants, and beautification grants were clear winners.
February 1: Site visit to Muskogee with student teams
Student teams will visit Muskogee on February 1. The team will follow up to secure locations for a scavenger hunt to familiarize students with downtown. Several potential volunteers and locations were identified by the committee.
March 1: Competition Jury in the Mall
Students will return with their designs for the mall site and present in open house style. The committee identified a few people to serve on the jury for the competition: