Towerview Taking

By David Arnett    
Monday, 18 December 2006
Publisher’s Editorial

The abandoned, partially boarded, rat and feral-cat invested Towerview apartment building between Second and Third Streets on Cheyenne should be taken not for economic development, but for blight.  It is a public danger city government has an obligation to remove.

The pictures accompanying this story have been taken over two years with the most recent showing trespassers entering the unsafe rat, flea, and roach infested structure.  This writer asked the young people climbing on top of their car to enter the building why they were doing that – they answered, “Because it is open.”  They were travelers from Arizona exploring downtown Tulsa and could not believe city officials had not completely secured the property.

Yes they were sincerely urged to reconsider, but I don’t carry a gun or a badge.

The Tulsa World ran a series of stories on the Towerview before it closed sending a good reporter to live in the rat-trap for a short time.  The daily publication now brags about that “investigative series,” and the ultimate intervention of health and safety inspectors to remove residents and close the Towerview.  Despite the daily ego to the contrary, everyone active in downtown public affairs knew how bad it was for many years.  Tulsa World employees still park their cars adjacent to the Towerview and have for 30 years.  Cool.  Maybe after another 30 years the Tulsa World news staff could find other stories in their own parking lots or, God forbid, get out of their office chairs to find new compelling community interest stories.

Tulsa Today offices have been located in close proximity to the Towerview for the last four years.  We have observed this building, talked with residents, watched daily drug deals and worked with police, public works employees, fire inspectors and others to address obvious problems and specific crime.  As neighbors, we must act to maintain our neighborhoods especially when owners fail to maintain safe habitable standards – this was a slum sucking money from poor people who could not find better accommodations.

No references, no job, no prayer of finding good housing – if you had cash for the immediate week, the Towerview welcomed you.  

Ultimately closed in the interest of public health and safety, those poor residents did protest official actions and news organization duly covered their emotional wailing.  No doubt some blog will now rail about the dangers of eminent domain, but this case is the good side of government taking.  This building is blight that damages our core neighborhood.

This property may or may not be redeveloped.  It should be developed as it is across the street from the BOK Center (Tulsa’s new arena opening 2008), but the Tulsa Development Authority is most known for non-development, bureaucratic resistance to development, and addiction to “the big deal” that never happens.

The idle minded current “out-of-state” owner bought the property “sight unseen” according to inside reports.  The other significant player in this sordid story is the Tulsa family that made a fortune for many years and sold the property (traded paper) between family members to up the price before they sold it in a package deal.  They know who they are, but those details came after a promise of anonymity to a family source.

The current owner made a half-hearted attempt to show some business and civic leaders preliminary architectural plans, but they were so lacking in detail as to prove the point of his primary interest – jacking the price up to make a killing off the City of Tulsa.  At best, this property is less valuable than raw land because of the cost of demolition required to clean it.  The current owner ordered it striped of any removable value and so it was – we watched.

This is not a socialist plot moving civic standards in an inevitable drive to take your home and church (as radio flakes and fruitcake blogs may suggest).

The Tulsa City Council should approve the use of eminent domain in this specific case and allow the process to provide compensation to the current owner based upon certified appraisals of real value rather than greed inflated smoke and mirrors.  This taking is fair.  This taking is just to remove public blight.  The use of eminent domain to remove the vacant hulk that was once the Towerview Apartments is in the best interest of the people of Tulsa.

Last Updated ( Monday, 18 December 2006 )