City officials have applied for a grant from a state agency that would fund three-quarters of the cost of a planned storm water detention pond just east of downtown, a project that neighborhood leaders consider essential to their revitalization plans for the area.
The pond is an important part of the Elm Creek/Sixth Street Drainage, Detention and Conveyance Plan put together by leaders of the Pearl District Association, a group working for the improvement of the neighborhood bounded by U.S. 75, Interstate 244, Utica Avenue and 11th Street. The planned 5-acre pond likely would be located just north of 5th Street and a few blocks east of U.S. 75.
Carl Craigo, a professional engineer in the city's Public Works Department and the project manager, said the likelihood of the pond being constructed on that site is 90 percent.
"There's a little bit of leeway, but not a lot," he said.
Craigo said the cost of the pond's construction is estimated at more than $8.5 million.
"We (the city of Tulsa) would fund 25 percent of that, and the grant would fund the rest," he said.
The $8.5 million price tag covers most of the basic aspects of the project, he said.
"The only thing it doesn't pay for is the moving of utilities," he said. "That's where a lot of our match comes in."
But the grant will not pay for the amenities that are planned for the site, such as gazebos or fountains, he said, or any of the surrounding commercial development it is designed to inspire.
"We can only purchase the construction footprint," he said.
City officials submitted their grant application in late June to the state Department of Emergency Management under its Hazard Mitigation Grant program. Craigo said he didn't know when the city would receive word on whether it would receive the grant. But if the application is successful, he said, things will start happening quickly.
"Once the grant is approved, we know which properties we need to acquire, so we'll move forward with the preliminary and final designs and the utility relocations, then the bidding begins," he said.
City officials have created a 36-month timeline for completion of the project once it has the funding in place, Craigo said, though he noted only approximately half that time is for the actual construction. Much of the rest will go toward finalizing the design.
Rachel Navarro, a PDA board member who chairs the association's East-West Pearl Subcommittee, was pleased that the grant application has been submitted, but she's eager to see the project become a reality.
"Well, of course, we're thrilled about it," she said. "We knew the city government had been working on the application, and we helped them with it. We've been pushing for it for two years now."
The pond would provide 64.5 acre-feet of flood water storage, according to a preliminary draft of the plan, providing relief for a part of town that has faced chronic flooding problems over the years. Navarro said the pond would serve the Crutchfield neighborhood especially well, taking residents there out of a flood plain.
But the pond is not merely designed to serve a utilitarian purpose, according to supporters of the project. PDA officials hope it will serve as a catalyst for redevelopment and help repopulate their neighborhood, which they are trying to reinvent into a walkable, sustainable, densely populated district.
"It does help us from an urban revitalization standpoint. The pond itself is taking up a large chunk of the surrounding neighborhood," she said, noting that the city will have to purchase a much larger footprint than it needs simply for the pond itself in order to make room to accommodate earth work and construction vehicles.
"We're hoping the city will then put out a (request for proposals) for redevelopment of that land," she said, explaining that the association has had a plan in place for the area for some time that promotes high-density residential projects.
The pond will serve as a partner to the one built several years ago at Centennial Park just a few blocks south, a spot that has since gone on to thrive. Long-term plans for the area by PDA officials call for the construction of a third and final pond at the east end of the Pearl District, along with a decorative canal running down the middle of 6th Street, which would serve a variety of vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic.
The entire cost of the Elm Creek/Sixth Street Drainage, Detention and Conveyance Plan has been estimated at more than $65 million.
Navarro said PDA officials are hopeful this is only the beginning of great things for their neighborhood.
"We're hoping the movement on the west pond will lead to movement on the east pond," she said, noting that several more phases of the larger plan remain. "This is just the next step in the process, not the end of the process."
The intersection of 6th Street and Peoria Avenue, the focal point of the neighborhood, currently is undergoing an extensive renovation that includes a variety of enhancements such as bollards, streetlights, decorative crosswalks and traffic-calming measures. Work on the intersection is scheduled to be complete over the next few months.
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