Master lease offers River West protection
PARKS • River Parks Authority considers city's 50-year lease proposal; city may donate Turkey Mountain land
The master lease recently announced between the city of Tulsa and River Parks Authority will run for 50 years and includes stronger protections for River West Festival Park while keeping the door open for commercial development there, a representative from the Mayor's Office said Tuesday.
The River Parks board of trustees will consider the proposed lease agreement on Thursday. The City Council, meanwhile, will consider a resolution Wednesday authorizing the city to move forward with its donation of four parcels of land on Turkey Mountain to River Parks.
“The agreement strikes a balance when it provides the city over the next 50 years with flexibility to dream about what the west bank of the river could look like and that kind of development we've always hoped for as a community,” said Nick Doctor, the city's chief of community development and policy. “And two, it lets Tulsans know cultural institutions like Oktoberfest that they love and they care about are protected some form going forward.”
Mayor G.T. Bynum proposed a master lease agreement in March to combine and simplify the multiple leases the city and River Parks have been working under for decades.
include provisions that allow the city to take back its land with a 30-day notice.
Doctor said the new, longer lease will allow River Parks to raise funds and plan for the future without worrying that the land can be taken from it at any moment.
Bynum's proposed master lease separated the city-owned land used by River Parks into three categories, each with different terms under which the city could retake the land.
Doctor said the master lease to be considered by River Parks on Thursday includes basically the same classifications — with one big difference. Under Bynum's proposed master lease, city-owned Turkey Mountain property had a classification of its own.
Now there is no need for such a classification because the city has agreed to deed the land to River Parks Authority. That idea came from River Parks Authority Trustee Phil Frohlich.
“That quickly became a conversation point that we started looking at pretty seriously,” Doctor said. “That was a pretty quick agreement.”
The two remaining classifications in the latest proposed master lease “are essentially a mirror of what we talked about in March,” Doctor said.
Class A properties, which are made up primarily of city-owned land on the east bank of the Arkansas River, will be preserved for park purposes and development that is complementary to park purposes, Doctor said, and can only be removed from the lease by mutual agreement of the city and River Parks Authority.
“It (also) preserves our ability to do utility work and maintain our public infrastructure in that space,” Doctor said.
For Class B properties, which are made up primarily of properties on the west bank of the river, the city will have to provide 120-day notice before it could remove them from the lease, Doctor said.
The proposed master lease includes additional protections for River Parks' most prized property on the west bank — River West Festival Park.
Doctor said should the city consider developing the property, it would have to do one of the following, or a combination of the following: provide another piece of property for the festival park along the river; provide financial assistance to River Parks to develop another site for the park; or provide financial compensation.
The proposed lease also states that any Oktoberfest that falls within one year of the city needing to retake the River West Festival Park land will not be affected.
In a separate but related development, the George Kaiser Family Foundation has agreed to donate approximately 140 acres of Turkey Mountain land in which it has an ownership stake.
Frohlich, who also sits on the GKFF board of trustees, said he has been working since 2004 to acquire land on Turkey Mountain on behalf of the foundation. He said the foundation's intent has always been to donate the land to the city once it was sure the other Turkey Mountain properties would be preserved for an urban wilderness area.
The proposed master lease the River Parks board is to consider on Thursday would do just that.
“With the city now having stepped up, I fully expect that the Kaiser Foundation's trustees will approve a formal gifting to River Parks of our foundation's interest in some-140 Turkey Mountain acres at our next trustees meeting in midDecember,” Frohlich said.