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  • Cathy O'Connor

preserving history, community

The term economic development is often associated with facilitating new construction, but it can also serve as the catalyst for progress by restoring communities and preserving the rich history infused within existing buildings. A current example of this is the redevelopment of Page Woodson High School in northeast Oklahoma City.

Built in 1910 as Lowell School and renamed Page Woodson in 1954, the school served as a thriving center for the community for nearly a century and was part of the city’s history of segregation and desegregation in the 1960s. When the school closed its doors in 1994, it sat abandoned and neglected for the next two decades.

In 2013, developers Ron Bradshaw and his son, Jason, purchased the decaying school to renovate it into high-quality, affordable apartment housing, meeting a critical need in this area. The estimated $25 million project will have 68 apartments in the original building, with an additional 68 units in a new apartment building on the grounds. The developers hope to attract a blend of residents who currently live in the area and those who work at nearby businesses; for example, the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, one of Oklahoma City’s top employers.

The Bradshaws have engaged the community through stakeholder meetings, public input, tours of the building, and recently a picnic on the lawn of the old school grounds. This dialogue has influenced the development process and helped to ensure the project meets the needs and expectations of the community.

Several economic development tools are being utilized to preserve this historic structure, including tax increment financing, state and federal historic tax credits and affordable housing tax credits. These tools help make it financially feasible for the developer to invest in this project, which will attract additional investment in the area, create new jobs and increase the tax base.

Read the full article at The Journal Record.

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