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Evans-Fintube project plans to transform Historic Greenwood
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Evans-Fintube project plans to transform Historic Greenwood

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Will Black businesses benefit from the multi-million-dollar effort?

By GARY LEE

 

Evans-Fintube, a colossal new development complex, is poised to go up in the Historic Greenwood District over the next few years.  

The construction of the project, estimated to cost tens of millions to build and employ hundreds of contractors and other workers, is the biggest construction enterprise in the downtown Tulsa area since the BMX Center. In September, the city of Tulsa released a “Request for Proposals” to create a destination, mixed-used project at the site, which is a former industrial facility that is spread over eleven acres and includes the 120,000-square-foot Oklahoma Ironworks Building. 

There are many outstanding questions but one of the biggest is: who will marshal the project forward? 

Earlier this month, the Tulsa Authority for Economic Opportunity (TAEO) and a steering committee that includes several North Tulsans, narrowed the list of contractors who might develop the project to two: Team Alchemy (BeGood Development) Greenwood Phoenix (E Smith Legacy, Rose Rock, and Pivot Project)   

“We are excited for these two teams to share their ideas for Tulsa’s next destination in historic Greenwood,” said Kian Kamas, TAEO’s executive director. “Both teams have a unique vision for the Evans-Fintube redevelopment, and both have presented ambitious strategies for building wealth and creating economic opportunity through their proposed projects.” 

The decision was reached as a result of a discussion and vote by members of TAEO and the Evans-Fintube steering committee. The committee is composed over more than a dozen members, including Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper; former Councilors Jack Henderson and Joe Williams; former Greenwood Chamber of Commerce president/CEO Reuben Gant; and Lana Turner-Addison, president of the North Tulsa Economic Development Initiative. 

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COVER Evans-Fintube facility can be seen from all over the Historic Greenwood District. TOP The East side of the site as shown from the corner of Archer Street and Lansing Avenue. ABOVE Graffiti and broken windows can be seen throughout the area surrounding the Evans-Fintube location. PHOTOS BY SAM LEVRAULT / FOR THE OKLAHOMA EAGLE.

Why Tisdale’s team wasn’t selected 

The leaders of TAEO and members of the steering committee will give a presentation about their decision in a meeting scheduled for the evening of April 5 at the 36th Street Events Center. The two developers on the short list will also give presentations of their concepts for the site at that meeting. North Tulsans are encouraged to attend. 

Shortly after the announcement, Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell made headlines by hinting that a soccer stadium might be in the plans for the Evans-Fintube site.  His comments angered many North Tulsans who view a stadium as inconsistent with their expressed wishes for the site.  

Twenty-20 Management, a Tulsa-based construction company, headed by Tulsan William Tisdale, had been on the short list earlier as a potential developer of the site but was not recommended to advance to the final round. Tisdale and his extended family – including his father, the Rev. Louis Tisdale, his late mother-in-law State Sen. Maxine Horner and brother NBA player and jazz musician Wayman Tisdale – are well known and beloved in the North Tulsa community. 

During several public hearings about the project, a groundswell of North Tulsans had voiced support for Twenty-20 as the company that TAEO should contract to lead the Evans-Fintube construction. The biggest reason they gave is that the company’s leadership has deep roots in North Tulsa. Throughout the public hearings about the site, Twenty-20 presenters highlighted those deep ties to Historic Greenwood and Black Tulsa. Their proposal for redeveloping the site, located a couple of blocks from the heart of Greenwood, resonated strongly with the gatherings of Black North Tulsans. 

By the account of Charles Harper, who has helped organize the community meetings in his role as executive director of World Won Development, more than 80 percent of North Tulsans polled favored Twenty-20 as the developer. 

“They are thinking wow, we got Tisdale, Fire in Little Africa, The Terrence Crutcher Foundation,” Harper said, referring to groups that had lobbied on Twenty-20’s behalf. “Man, we’re feeling good about the community. We’re finally doing it the right way.” 

Twenty-20 lacked key info 

Kamas, who is overseeing the selection process in her role as executive director at TAEO, explained that there were two reasons Twenty-20 did not advance in the process. The company could not show that it has the financial capability to complete the project, she said in an interview with the Oklahoma Eagle.  

They lacked documentation proving their ability to follow through with the project, she said. 

The company also failed to provide a pro forma, essentially an outline that shows the overall financials of the project and how the project performs over a number of years how the revenue and the cost and the incentives needed all interact to put together a project that is financially viable, Kamas said. Although the pro forma is a standard part of the application for such projects, the Twenty-20 team did not provide one, she added.  

“Without those two key components we did not have any the ability to assess whether the proposal they made was viable,” she explained. 

The Oklahoma Eagle contacted Twenty-20 executives for a comment but received no response. 

Kamas said that TAEO has offered to assist Twenty-20 to position itself for other major construction projects.  

“Our goal is to help build capacity among developers,” she said.  “So, we set aside funding to provide technical assistance and training for that team. We will be working with them to identify if there are training opportunities that they can they think will help set them up for future projects.” 

Not a viable candidate 

Turner-Addison, a member of the Evans-Fintube steering committee, explained further why Twenty-20 was not a viable candidate.  

“They had feasible ideas and concepts but when you are looking at ‘RFPS’ and moving things forward there are forms that have to be adhered to,” she told the Eagle. “Twenty-20 Management’s application was not complete… That really is the only reason that they were not recommended to go forward.” 

Both Kamas and Turner-Addison said they felt the two firms on the short list respond directly to feedback from Black North Tulsans about their expectations for the Evans Fintube project.  

One view North Tulsans expressed centers around ensuring that the projects have direct mechanisms for increasing opportunities for Black residents and Black businesses, Kamas said. 

“Many raised the question: How do you create wealth in the Black community and increase ownership opportunities,” she said. 

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Many others emphasized the importance of creating a destination that will bring more people to the area, but have it been a place that is truly repetitive of the history of the neighborhood. that celebrates the legacy of Greenwood and a place that North Tulsans feel comfortable going, Kamas said. 

“We see mechanisms in which both the teams are trying to speak to that.” 

Turner-Addison added: “I believe Black voices are being heard.” 

Pinnell says site could be new stadium 

Pinnell, who also serves as Oklahoma’s secretary of tourism, made his remarks about the possibility of a soccer stadium on the Evans-Fintube site on The Blitz 1170AM while discussing the state’s tourism industry. 

“They (FC Tulsa) will need a new stadium, a standalone one. So, you know they play in the driller’s park, as you know, right now,” he told the radio station. “So, we’re looking at the ideas there, you know, potentially (Evans-) Fintube is the place. There will be some announcements in the future. … For them to be a standalone, that’s something I’m really looking into right now.” 

Later, Pinnell said it is not part of the selection process and does not mean any decision has been taken about, which project will be built on the 11-acre site. 

“I’m not involved in this in any way,” he said. “I can’t even tell you who’s on the selection committee for that.” 

Pinnell said it should be left to the North Tulsa community to determine what has been built on the property. 

 Turner-Addison batted back Pinnell’s suggestion of a stadium.  

“The timing of his statement is very unfortunate,” she said, “and it continues to add on to the mistrust of the community in this process. 

“But I am confident that that will not be a part of this Evans Fintube process.” 

 

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