Inflation and interest rates could slow new construction, while businesses look for existing space to expand
By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
Midwest City has seen plenty of economic development in recent years despite challenges during the pandemic.
New businesses have continued to spring up in the Sooner Rose and Center Marketplace near SE 15th St. and Sooner Rd. while Town Center Plaza and other areas are filling vacant spaces.
“Midwest City has done especially good over the past six years, partly because that national economy was exceptionally strong for four of those years, partly because we had the right mix of business and the right policies in place during the pandemic, but mostly due to city councilmembers who were very aggressive about expanding our tax and employment base,” said Midwest City economic development director Robert Coleman
That pace could slow in 2023 as hyper inflation and rising interest rates put a damper on economic development. Coleman said he expects to see new commercial construction to slow, but businesses could be looking for existing spaces.
“We don’t expect to see a lot of new commercial construction anytime soon,” he said. “Those with existing, Class A buildings are going to hear their telephone ringing. Owners of space in need of modernizing or refurbishing and those who hold undeveloped property may not see much activity.”
Town Center Plaza should receive a boost this year with Mathis Home Store opening in the former JC Penney building, 7127 SE 29th St. The 100,000-square-foot store is expected to create about 100 jobs and draw more than 115,000 new customers to Town Center Plaza. The store will feature separate areas for La-Z-Boy and Ashley Furniture as well as a restaurant and bar area.
Midwest City is providing economic assistance to offset some of the cost of the $6 million construction project. Mathis Brothers will be eligible for a rebate of local sales taxes paid after the store opens. The city will reimburse50% of the city sales taxes remitted by Mathis Brothers on an annual basis. The incentive is capped at $3 million total. The money will be paid through proceeds from ground leases in Town Center Plaza.
The store is expected to open by April.
Carter’s, 7185 SE 29th St., opened earlier this month, filling a void for a kid’s clothing store in Town Center since A Children’s Place closed. New tenants are also expected to move into spaces previously occupied by Weight Watchers and Panera Bread, Coleman said.
One of the biggest challenges ahead will be filling the vacant former Dick’s Sporting Goods building. The national retailer closed its Midwest City location last month due to a dispute over the lease. Coleman said the building owner will likely divide the 50,000 square-foot-building into smaller parcels.
“Dick’s Sporting Goods loss at the end of the year was a major blow because of the size of the space, but it did not come as a complete surprise,” Coleman said. “DSG has seen a significant drop in sales since it chose not to carry hunting gear about five years ago.”
Sooner Rose has a few vacant parcels for development. There is a small space behind HTeaO and two others in front of Regal Warren Theatre, as well as about 4 ½ acres near Andy’s Altitude 1291.
Coleman said there are also a couple of vacancies in the former Twidwell building, 6001 SE 15th St. and Center Marketplace, and in a commercial building west of the movie theatre.
Midwest City’s efforts to spark economic development on the north side have hit a bump. The city approved a Tax Increment Finance or TIF District to help attract a pair of industrial businesses.
Global Turbine Solutions planned to build a jet engine repair facility in the Soldier Creek Industrial Park, located on NE 23rd St., east of Air Depot Blvd. The city’s contract with the Florida-based company expired several months ago, and Coleman said they are looking for new tenants for the industrial park.
Centrillium Proteins plans to build a meat processing plant at 7210 NE 36th St. The city council recently approved a 90-day extension for Centrillium after the company said it needs to revise its building plans due to rising costs.
Under the TIF, the city agreed to provide financial incentives to GTS for hiring local employees and to offset construction costs. Midwest City agreed to help with utility improvements and construction of a rail spur for Centrillium. The city would cover the expenses with property taxes generated within the boundaries of the TIF district.
So far, Midwest City has spent about $40,000 setting up the TIF. Coleman said that has been limited to engineering design, outside counsel, and staff time. The TIF will need to be revised if the city lands a new business in the Soldier Creek Industrial Park.
“There are two strong prospects we continue to nurture and two more possibilities are in the early stages of screening. A lot of work has been put into designing, building and marketing SCIP not to have at least one tenant, and we hope to change that in 2023,” he said. “Don’t be surprised if 2023 brings amendments to the TIF Project Plan in an effort to provide assistance to one of these projects.”
Midwest City officials are also hoping to begin improvements to the Air Depot Blvd. corridor. The city council last week adopted the Air Depot Corridor Plan which aims to reinvigorate the area. The plan was created by Catalyst Commercial with input from city staff, business owners and residents. It was funded through a grant from the Memorial Hospital Authority Board of Grantors.
The city is also in the process or revitalizing the Heritage Park Mall area through the process of urban renewal. The urban renewal authority, which consists of residents appointed by the city council, approved an urban renewal plan last month. The plan provides framework for the process. It will be reviewed by the planning commission and later sent to the city council for approval.
Coleman said both the Heritage Park Mall and Air Depot Blvd. will require significant investment. He said the work will likely be completed in phases.
“Addressing the blight around Heritage Park Mall seems to be a priority every citizen can agree upon, and that project goes hand-in-hand with bettering the Air Depot Boulevard corridor,” he said. “It may be difficult to do one without the other but both come with comparatively expensive price tags.”