Foundation Funding Progress

By Lisa Stringer    
Thursday, 20 July 2006
A $20 million financial package provided by the George Kaiser Family Foundation will benefit several Vision 2025 projects, including construction of the downtown arena and Arkansas River corridor development.

The two-part commitment consists of a $10 million grant to fund a new initiative by the Foundation to improve parks and gathering areas along the river and another $10 million subordinated loan to assist Tulsa County in completing the arena and convention center projects.

Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor and Tulsa County Commissioner Randi Miller joined Ken Levit, the Foundation’s executive director, and foundation officials in presenting the package Tuesday.

Levit said the Foundation – established in 1999 to aid impoverished youth through education, healthcare and social services – has a strong interest in improving the overall quality of life in the Tulsa area, citing “community beautification, economic development and strengthening the civic life in our town” as three top priorities.

Levit called the Foundation’ $10 million gift toward river development “an effort to jump-start a new period of beautification, enhancement and economic development” along the banks of the Arkansas River, which he called Tulsa’s “most beautiful natural asset and most identifiable feature.”

“It is our hope that a broad group of civic partners will join with us to bring the river to its full potential as a key force in the life of the Tulsa region,” Levit said, adding that the Foundation plans work with closely with city and county leaders, the Corps of Engineers and other community officials to coordinate their efforts with existing development plans.

Vancouver, British Columbia-based Bing Thom Architects will develop river-related projects for consideration under contract through the Foundation.  “We expect to have their best ideas by year’s end, so we can get to work on implementation,” Levit said.  Foundation officials say decisions about specific projects have not yet been made.

In addition, Levit said the Foundation will offer Tulsa County a $10 million “program related investment” – a below-market subordinated loan – to assist it in meeting the higher construction costs of the arena and convention center improvements.

“The other bondholders for Vision 2025 would be paid first,” Levit said.  “Our loan will give the County and the community some breathing room as it meets these financial obligations.  It is below market rate, and it will be structured in a way to give the County some extra flexibility as it juggles the different Vision 2025 project timelines.”

Levit said the Foundation sees the two parts of the package as being linked for the good of the city.  “These are very promising times for Tulsa, and we are proud to be part of a long-held Tulsa tradition of public and private partnership to improve our community for this and future generations,” Levit said.

Commissioner Miller, Foundation officials
“All of Tulsa County will benefit from this announcement,” said Commissioner Randi Miller, adding that the river development called for by the voters will be moved forward by the package.

“River grants affect five cities in Tulsa County – Jenks, Bixby, Sand Springs, Tulsa and Broken Arrow – and this will accelerate development now,” Miller said.  “Development of the river, along with the arena and the convention center, will enhance Tulsa County’s future.”

Tuesday was also a special day for Mayor Kathy Taylor, who expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to move forward on two areas considered so vital to bettering Tulsa’s quality of life.

“This is my 100th day in office, and thanks to the generosity of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, this is a day I’ll remember for a long time,” said Taylor.  The voting citizens of this County have called river development a priority, she continued, calling the package “an opportunity to leverage the best of all the river studies, [Tulsa’s] public and private partnerships, and the vision and expertise of a world-renown architectural firm.”

Taylor said the package represents a giant leap forward – and an excellent example of the city’s successful past.  “Here in Tulsa, we bring public and private partnerships together – and we do it better than anyone else,” Taylor said.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 20 July 2006 )