PCDA to consider accepting City Center building Thursday

Ponca City Now - August 9, 2016 5:08 pm

By Beverly Bryant/News Director

The Board of Trustees for the Ponca City Development Authority will consider accepting the City Center building as a donation, along with an additional $200,000 donation from the building's owner to help renovate the building.

The trustees will consider the matter at its regular meeting at 7:30 a.m. Thursday in the Chamber of Commerce Board Room at 420 East Grand Ave.

Executive Director David Myers said Tuesday that the owner, Irish Realty of Oklahoma City, offered to donate the building to the city about two years ago for a Public Safety Center. City staff determined the building is not suited for that purpose, but further discussions found it may be an asset for economic development services.

Myers said talks started in November about the building being donated for that purpose. Engineers, heating and air experts and roofers looked at the building to see what repairs would have to be made, and Irish Realty offered to donate $200,000 for those renovations.

Myers said that if the offer is accepted by the trustees, the building would be renovated to use for external clients. Current tenants would be offered the opportunity to stay in the building, he said.

He said PCDA gets leads periodically from companies wanting a variety of office space, in addition to the industrial projects PCDA is best known for facilitating.

"This building gives a lot of flexibility on size," he said. "Our goal is to diversify the economy. But it will take some time to find the right clients."

In addition to the owner's offered donation of $200,000, PCDA staff has been working with city staff on a potential grant from the Economic Development Administration, under the Public Works and Economic Adjustment program.

"While the projected cost for renovations is $966,000, the resolution provides for a grant request up to $1,250,000 to cover any unforeseen capital expenses needed to rehabilitate the building and transition the facility into an economic development asset," Myers said in a memo on the agenda item.

"This is an opportunity to get the building and donation from the owner, with encouragement from the City of Ponca City to apply for this grant," he said. "We can't pursue that grant until we own the building."

Myers said the center would be a very beneficial asset for PCDA.

In the memo to the PCDA board, Myers said the building is currently operating at a loss of approximately $100,000 per year.

"Projections indicate that building could become financially sustainable in three to five years," the memo said. "Until that time, PCDA will need to budget funds to cover any operational deficits. In addition, there are significant repairs that will need to be performed."

Myers said the goals of accepting the building go right to the heart of the goals of economic development.

"In short, it would be a tool to diversify the economy by targeting external companies in the business services industry. This industry is not well represented in rural America, let alone Ponca City. This industry also tends to employ people in areas needed by Ponca City citizens and it tends to pay well," he said.

Myers' memo said Ponca City's complete, free wireless net throughout the city has drawn attention from companies and individuals interested in exploring a future in the city.

"Ponca City’s wireless net, the result of a Federal Department of Education grant more than a decade ago and a significant investment by the City of Ponca City to provide a community wide, free, wireless network, is an asset upon which the community can build. The 360 miles of fiber currently in operation in the city provides an excellent backbone infrastructure for the growth of business services companies," the memo said.

In addition to the presence of the fiber infrastructure, PCDA has a strong interest in business services for three reasons:

  • The need to diversify the local economy;
  • An available workforce of almost 3,000 people in the labor shed with business services experience who are not currently working; and
  • Existing relationships at Northern Oklahoma College and Oklahoma State University that have proven they can produce high level talent for these businesses in Ponca City.

City Center was built as a bank building approximately 40 years ago. As banking has changed, ownership of the bank changed with it. Approximately seven years ago, the last bank operations in the building ceased and the facility has been in decline, from an occupancy and financial perspective, ever since. As an example, the lobby area, through which prospective tenants must transit to reach the office facilities, continues to have the former bank facilities and has not been maintained. This makes the attraction of a company difficult, Myers said.

 

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