At a meeting of the committee that oversees downtown’s tax increment finance, or TIF districts, the chief executive officer of Devon Energy pitched his plan for creation of a new district for the $750 million, 54-story tower that could dramatically transform most or all of the downtown area.
A new city staff report indicates the proposed district is expected to generate $135 million. In what may be a first for the city’s tax increment financing program, [Larry] Nichols said he wouldn’t ask for TIF money for the tower, an adjoining new park or for purchase and expansion of the city-owned west City Center garage.
“One hundred percent of this project will be paid for by Devon it will not be paid by the TIF,” Nichols said. “We’re asking that the TIF be spent to fix up the neighborhood.”
How much fixing up can be done with $135 million? Keep in mind that all the original MAPS projects combined, adjusted for inflation, cost $400 million or so.
If all this seems a hair improbable, it’s partly, I think, because we’re thinking of Devon as just one little ol’ natural-gas producer, hundreds of which have come and gone over the years. It doesn’t occur to us that Devon is freaking huge: the company’s market cap is upwards of $30 billion, even with gas prices on the low side. They could practically build this skyscraper with petty cash. And Lackmeyer reports in a sidebar that the tower alone, by 2022, will have an annual economic impact of $1.9 billion. Now figure in the upgrades to the surrounding area made possible by TIF revenues, and suddenly this looks like the screaming deal of the century.
None of this is graven in stone, of course. But from where I sit, it’s a lot more than a mere sketch on a dinner napkin.