By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
Midwest City will begin working to acquire the former Heritage Park Mall property.
The Midwest City Urban Renewal Authority last week authorized city staff to begin efforts to acquire the property as part of the urban renewal plan. They will develop an appraisal of the property and negotiate with the property owner.
“It will authorize staff to obtain an appraisal, review the appraisal, make a good faith offer based on the appraisal and attempt to negotiate with the purchase of the property,” said Emily Pomeroy, an attorney with the Center for Economic Development Law. “If we are able to enter into a purchase agreement for the property then we will, subject to approval.”
If an agreement cannot be reached, the city will attempt to acquire the property through use of eminent domain. Governments have the power to seize private land for public use, with proper compensation.
Both parties have the right to challenge the value of the property.
The land targeted for acquisition includes the main portion of the mall, the former Montgomery Wards building and former What-A-Burger. Midwest City Economic Development Trust already owns the former Sears building which is also included in the Urban Renewal Area.
Pomeroy said the Authority will be making the offer for the property.
The Authority also approved policies for the relocation of anyone displaced by the Urban Renewal Area during the Oct. 10 meeting. The policy includes relocation benefits such as moving expenses.
“They ensure the fair and consistent treatment of any person displaced in acquisition of property under this plan,” Pomeroy said.
Under the Oklahoma Urban Redevelopment Act, municipalities have tools to prevent the spread of blight in their communities by encouraging redevelopment and rehabilitation of properties that are blighted.
Midwest City’s urban renewal plan was approved in April and includes authorizations, relocation policies and procedures and how it will be implemented. It also defines the area, objectives and actions, and land uses.
The plan does not include details about how the property would be redeveloped or potential future uses. Any development will include input from the public and be subject to design review and consideration by the urban renewal authority.
“We wanted to make sure that the public had notice that now they’re going to really acquire the property,” Pomeroy said.
During the meeting, former Mayor and State Sen. and Dave Herbert announced that he is stepping down from the Urban Renewal Authority. The longtime Midwest City resident was the vice-chairman of the Authority.
“I really believe my wife’s illnesses and stuff that I need to do at the house and take care of her, plus the fact that the actions that are being taken here are going to be good for the city for a long time,” he said. “I think a younger person needs to be stepping into the chair.”
Herbert said it would be his last meeting but offered to help in other ways.
Chairman Jack Fry thanked Herbert for his dedication to the city over the years and inspiration to other community leaders.
“You have been very much appreciated in our community for all that you have done,” Fry said. “And I want to tell you how much you mean to me personally and to my family. What you have done for the community is outstanding and your service has been honorable.”
Members of the Urban Renewal Authority are appointed by the mayor and approved by the council.