Q&A - July 12, 2015

The second downtown property that has been purchased by OSUIT for development into student lofts is the 15,000 sq. ft. Bell Building at the northeast corner of 6th Street and Morton Avenue. It is the anchor building of what was referred to as the Bell Block, constructed by Dr. G.W. Bell between 1900-1901. The first floor of the Bell Building was a drug store, and later Guaranty State Bank, and the top floor was the Bell’s Opera House used for professional entertainment, Chamber of Commerce meetings, high school graduations, dances and other special occasions.

This week, I would like to put to rest some questions about OSUIT competing with the private sector.

Q: How can you justify a state tax supported institution competing with the private sector by removing buildings off of ad valorem taxes?

While it is true that property owned by the State of Oklahoma is exempt from ad valorem taxation, the fact is that the buildings purchased by OSUIT were primarily vacant buildings and were producing very little ad valorem taxes. As I have stated earlier, one of the primary purposes of this downtown housing project is to help revitalize downtown Okmulgee, thus increasing ad valorem taxation through the reuse of current vacant buildings. For many of the private citizens who are actually investing their own money in downtown renovation projects, it has been expressed that OSUIT’s purchase of buildings was a catalyst for them to pursue their own renovations.

Q: It is rumored the college wants to open a copy center, coffee shop, etc. Why would you do this when there are already people working hard to make a living in these types of businesses in downtown Okmulgee?

Please don’t pay any attention to rumors. OSUIT has not yet determined what services or activities that may be provided downtown. We are aware, however, that current City of Okmulgee zoning codes require retail on the ground floor of the buildings on the square and along 6th Street (including the Bell Building). It is certainly our intention to comply with all such ordinances, but our objective has never been to directly compete with private business in Okmulgee. If OSUIT does decide to directly provide a service or activity downtown, then we will try to provide a service or activity that is currently not being provided to the citizens of Okmulgee, in other words, to meet an unmet need. We may simply lease ground floor space to other private businesses. Whatever the outcome, OSUIT is committed to making downtown Okmulgee an attractive place to live, work, eat, relax, shop, etc.

Thank you for your thought-provoking questions this week. Please feel free to email your thoughts and additional questions to osuit-president@okstate.edu.