There have been negotiations with the city of Enid for a Tax Increment Finance agreement to cover the Oakwood Mall redevelopment funding shortfall.  “It didn’t make economic sense to do the deal without some type of help, but because of the fact the new mall would create a lot more property and sales tax, Tax Increment Financing made a lot of sense,” said S Squared Development Principal Bill Stone, who is working to redevelop the mall.  There’s an old TIF agreement in place with a previous mall developer, but it will have to be redone if efforts with the new developer come to fruition, City Manager Jerald Gilbert said.

The developer has to have a memorandum of understanding before it can close, Stone said.  “We have investors, equity partners, and we have to detail where all the money is coming for the project,” Stone said. “The tax increment financing from the city is an important part of making this project work, and the city has given us a one-page letter which states how much money they’re willing to give us. It also states we have to close by the 31st to get that money, but there’s no details. We need all the details of what that agreement is, so they either have to give us a memorandum of understanding or they have to give us the actual TIF agreement. We don’t have either one, at this time.”

Gilbert said the developer will need to provide its information on sales and projections to the city’s TIF attorney, who will then rework the TIF agreement.  The developer is aware of the need for the information, he said.  “The intent is to have that deal done before May 31, which we can do as long as they do their part,” Gilbert said. The May 31 deadline is for the developer to close on the purchase of the property, he said.  Right now, the TIF is more than $5 million, Stone said.  “We’ve been talking to the city about getting a little more money to try and make the theater deal work. The final number has not been agreed to yet, but it’s more than $5 million,” he said.  The commission has agreed to help incentivize the theater separately, Ward 6 Commissioner David Vanhooser said.  Vanhooser said the developer requested several millions more for the mall project and was told “absolutely no.”  “That was part of the breakdown in the fall, is he came back and wanted more money, and we said absolutely not,” he said.  Ward 3 Commissioner Ben Ezzell said developers always request more money.  The TIF for the mall redevelopment was previously $5 million, and that’s kind of been the “going shape of the incentive,” Ezzell said.  “If somebody comes and says, ‘Hey, I’ve got a signed lease with x retailer that fills this void in your retail market and has this projection to generate these dollars,’ then, you know, we’ll always listen. If somebody can put together a package that fills a giant hole in our leakage report, then that’s worth a whole lot more money,” he said. “I don’t think anything is ever written in stone.”  Ezzell said city officials know what Enid needs. “We have a pretty good idea of where the demand is for this community, and we certainly place a higher priority on filling those gaps than anything else. That changes the shape of an incentive. We also have the areas where we want to see redevelopment. We don’t want to see the mall vacant. We don’t want to see big, empty buildings in our corridor,” he said. “That always can change the shape of it.”

Gilbert said when the TIF is reworked, he thinks it will be for more than $5 million. Funds would be given over a period of years. “It’s dependent on the numbers that the developer has to show that they can achieve,” he said. Vanhooser said the TIF money is “really key” to the developer. “Without that, I’m not sure they can make the deal work,” he said.

Story by:  Enid News & Eagle