POSTED ON OCTOBER 13, 2010:
One-Stop Living Shop
State's first mixed-use development project scheduled to begin soon in Jenks
Living Inside, Outside the Box. ďIt would have been easy to build something and lease it to big boxes with a sea of asphalt around the perimeter, but thatís exactly what we didnít want to do.Ē
Infrastructure work on an 800,000-square-foot mixed-use riverfront development in Jenks is scheduled to begin within the next week, clearing the way for construction to begin early next year, according to one of the partners in the project.
Bob Eggleston said he expects the first buildings in the 30-acre Village on Main project to start going up in February, with the first retail units opening for business in September. The development will include retail, residential, hotel and office space.
"This is really a different version of One Place," Eggleston said, referring to his $80 million mixed-use development planned for downtown Tulsa just east of the BOK Center.
Workers from Flintco, the project's general contractor, will begin putting in the infrastructure -- underground electric lines, sanitary sewer, storm sewer, sprinkler systems and fire hydrant lines -- by next week, while the development's roads also will be built. That includes a new, more direct entrance for the Oklahoma Aquarium, which will be surrounded by the new development. Completion of the infrastructure phase of the work is expected to take six to eight months.
Eggleston said he plans to make several announcements in the next few weeks about tenants that have agreed to lease space, but he previously has said the Village on Main will feature a 120-room hotel, 150 residential units, a niche grocery store, a 24-hour workout facility, office space, restaurants, sidewalk cafes and a village square. It is intended to serve as a higher-density, live-work-play community that is more sustainable and doesn't segregate uses, as traditional zoning does.
Eggleston has described the Village on Main as the state's first mixed-use development. Though it will be new to the Tulsa area, he believes it's the wave of the future.
"We're very fortunate both here and downtown to have created something that there is a demand for," he said. "It would have been easy to build something and lease it to big boxes with a sea of asphalt around the perimeter, but that's exactly what we didn't want to do."
Eggleston says he and his partners are attempting to set a new standard for development in the Tulsa area with the Village on Main. Not only did they retain the services of Sasaki Associates of Boston to put together the master plan for the project -- the same firm that formulated the master plan for the Olympic Green for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing -- they're challenging traditional ideas about what they can and can't do, even going so far as to seek permission from the city of Jenks, Tulsa County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to cut a hole in the levy that separates the development from the Arkansas River.
"We are really trying to think outside the box," Eggleston said, adding that his partnership's property extends to the river, so it only makes sense to try to take advantage of that. "We don't want the levy to be a natural barrier."
Being able link the Village on Main with the Arkansas River is critical from a visual standpoint, he said.
"The river is the best asset we have," Eggleston said, noting that the creation of a low-water dam downstream from the development in the future will make it more like a lake. "People love to be near water."
While the specifics of the plan have not been worked out, Jenks City Manager Mike Tinker believes the advantages of opening the development to a riverfront expanse are obvious.
"It's innovative, for sure," he said. "As we've said before, while the levy is very important for the safety of Jenks and other communities, it is a barrier for foot traffic and visuals."
Eggleston said his group is considering three alternatives for a gate system that would be used to close the gap in the levy when the river reaches flood stage.
The first alternative is a gate system, much like the one in use at the dam at Lake Keystone, he said. A 60-foot gap would be closed by two 30-foot gates.
The second alternative would employ a step-lock system in which aluminum planks are slotted into a groove on each side of the gap.
"You slide them in like fence rails," Eggleston said. "It's really simple."
The third alternative is a European system in which posts are set in the ground in the gap and slats are fitted on them when waters rise.
For those concerned about the wisdom of creating a gap in the levy, Eggleston said his research has shown that only three times in the last 40 years has the river risen high enough that it would have been necessary to close the gap.
Eggleston said he met with representatives of the Corps of Engineers on Oct. 5 to discuss those three alternatives and anticipates making a decision on which one to employ within the next three weeks.
After that, he'll present the plan to the city, county and Corps of Engineers for their approval.
"Something needs to happen pretty quickly," Tinker said. "This is not a minor alteration of the levy. This is something that will have to be decided at the (Washington) D.C. level, and they can sure slow things down in D.C. I've heard it's possible it could take months (to get approval for the plan), although we would hope it wouldn't take that long."
Eggleston is hoping the approval process can be expedited, as well. He began acquiring property for the project four years ago, piecing together 32 sites in that time, and is ready to see it become a reality.
"There comes a time when you say, 'It's time to go,' and we're at that stage," he said. "That's why we're committed to doing the infrastructure."
Moving ahead with the infrastructure work at this stage is an unusual step in an economy that is still struggling, Eggleston said.
"If you go back six years, you'd see that, but you don't see it now," he said, though he said he has no doubts the tenants will continue to materialize. "We have been overwhelmed by the response of people wanting to be in the Village."
Nevertheless, Eggleston said he and his partners are being selective in the types of businesses they'll lease to. He emphasized the development will have a family-type atmosphere, catering to moms and dads with strollers walking along its tree-lined, 15-foot-wide sidewalks. Nearly one-third of the Village on Main's footprint will be devoted to green space, he has said.
"We've had some people want to do things that are not in line with what we want to do, and we've had to say 'no'," he said.
Less than a year from now, Eggleston said the first businesses in the new development to open, but the larger ones won't start to open until July 2012, he said. Eggleston expects the Village on Main to be complete by 2015.
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