Archive for City Scene

And finally, the unwinding

It’s not the story one might hope for, but it’s the story he had coming:

A former Oklahoma City councilman accused of not filing state income tax returns for nine years has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of failing to file income tax returns.

Oklahoma County court records indicate 36-year-old John Pettis Jr. pleaded guilty Wednesday and received a five-year deferred sentence. Pettis was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and court costs.

Pettis resigned from the council in May 2018 shortly after he was charged with three counts of felony embezzlement and one count of failing to file tax returns for the years 2009 to 2017. Pettis was accused of taking at least $165,000 from charities under his control, but prosecutors dismissed the embezzlement counts in May.

Prosecutors say he has paid all back taxes and filed all past-due tax returns.

Pettis was replaced on the Council by Nikki Nice.

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Not the way this works

So much fail, these two clodhoppers:

Police responded to the scene of an accident Wednesday just after 5:30 p.m. near NE 23rd and Lottie.

While the officers were at the accident, a vehicle pulled up behind them and started yelling for them to move their patrol car so the driver could turn onto Lottie.

Officers approached the driver and told her to wait while they moved the damaged vehicles out of the roadway.

The woman reportedly told police, “you have two seconds,” and officers told the woman to wait again.

It’s rush hour, missy. Nothing happens in two seconds in rush hour.

The officers started walking back towards the accident when they heard an engine rev, and saw the woman drive over the curb and onto Lottie.

Officers caught up with the woman nearby who quickly exited the vehicle.

According to a probable cause affidavit, officers told the woman to get back in her vehicle and she replied, “f*** you.”

While the woman was being arrested, her passenger exited the vehicle despite being told by officers to stay inside, and allegedly “pulled” at an officer’s arm.

The woman, identified by police as Talitha Byrd, 21, was arrested for obstructing an officer and resisting execution of process during insurrection. Her passenger, Paul Brown, 26, was also arrested obstructing an officer and battery/assault on a police officer.

The most charitable explanation: they’re new around here. Kate is the next street to the east; Everest (southbound only) is the next street to the west, followed by Glyn Ellyn. Either would have gotten them where they were going. So I’m going with “drugs wearing off” as a hypothesis.

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The priciest house in town

In The Oklahoman this morning, Real Estate Editor Richard Mize was waxing lyrical about the most expensive homes in the county. There are, he reports, 1640 houses assessed at over $1 million, with one topping out over $6 million:

It’s in Gaillardia, which should be no surprise, with 17,561 square feet of space, built in 2010 on 3.16 acres at 14000 Gaillardia Lane, owned by the Jeffrey J. McDougall Trust. McDougall is president and principal owner of JMA Energy, a natural gas producer. His is the biggest house in Gaillardia.

And one should remember that assessments tend to be on the low side around here; the palatial estate at Surlywood, on this scale, is valued at a modest $93,000. (What it would actually sell for is anyone’s guess, though I’d guess somewhere slightly upwards of $110,000.)

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School is out

In 2016, Dunbar Elementary School was closed. And I have to admit, this isn’t what I thought would happen to the building:

Dunbar School reopening as a senior-living center

The units range from 452 to 807 square feet. And this place operates under the 1986 Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program, which gives the management a subsidy and puts an upper limit on how much a tenant can earn. The facility is located in the up-and-coming JFK neighborhood east of downtown.

(Clipped from the Oklahoman classifieds, or the remains of them anyway.)

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Time to spare

This set of lanes has been there seemingly forever — I’m pretty sure it was there when I lived in the 5500 block, which would have been 1976 or 1977 — and apparently it’s not ready for the wrecking ball just yet. From the Oklahoman’s Land Sales list this weekend:

iStar Bowling Centers I LP from AMF Bowling Centers Inc., successor by merger to American Recreation Centers Inc., 4600 NW 23, $3,153,000.

AMF stood for American Machine and Foundry, and in their heyday they were involved in lots of businesses besides bowling.

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Sounds like a plan

It’s almost like they planned it this way:

Homelessness Task Force reveals plan to create plan

This is what’s going on, or anyway what’s planned to be going on:

July 19, 2019 was the first public meeting of the Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness. It was a bit of a mess. It will likewise be a bit of a mess for the Mayor and this City to address homelessness.

I was told by a member that the Task Force represents 50 organizations in Oklahoma City. I don’t know if that number indicates independent agencies or if, say, it includes multiple departments of the City of OKC. The agenda for the meeting lists 26 members. Regardless, the task force is very large and has the look of a real Too Many Cooks situation.

I know most of these people. Some of the agencies and programs represented in the group have had adversarial relationships in the past. As the Task Force goes about its business I will be interested to see if the Mayor can manage these relationships.

The bulk of the meeting was taken up by a presentation from Analytic Insights. A.I. is a consulting firm that has helped develop strategic plans to address homelessness in other cities. They have been contracted by the Task Force to develop one for OKC. It is not cheap, but lucky for you and me, a private foundation agreed to fund the project, so that’s not taking away from any public resources.

Given the generally grim situation in “other cities,” I am something less than hopeful about this enterprise. Then again, I haven’t seen the plan.

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Pressed for time

Though there’s really no justification for being this much in a rush:

A man risked his safety to rescue his car when he jumped into the passenger seat as it was driven away by a thief. It happened [Monday] at Gear Exchange, a guitar and music store near NW 36th and Grand.

Brad Falkner pulled up to the front door and left his car running as he ran inside to pick up a guitar that was being repaired.

“I went inside with the expectation that I would be in and out very quickly,” Falkner said.

As Falkner parked, a blue Dodge Caliber pulled up next to his car.

The driver got out and started to walk in, but a surveillance camera catches him make a motion to the woman in the passenger seat. Then, she’s seen crouched opening Falkner’s door, getting in the driver’s seat, and taking off.

The Dodge driver, it appears, was just there for distraction:

“He kind of uttered something under his breath, and said, “Oh, there’s no records here” and turned around and walked out,” Falkner said. “I looked back and saw that he left the door open, I thought that was kind of odd.”

Then Falkner saw his car driving away without him and took off after it. He caught it just as the lady thief was about to turn right and jumped into the passenger seat, barely making it in as she hit the gas.

This close to I-44, he’s damn lucky he managed to catch her. (We won’t discuss the one time I did something of comparable stupidity.)

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Pretty ugly

5609 Northwest 130th StreetAnd a little big for its surroundings. This oxymoron of a dwelling is the Oklahoman’s Listing of the Week:

The Listing of the Week is a Dallas-style home with a big open living area on 0.18 acre in a gated neighborhood in northwest Oklahoma City.

The 2,276-square-foot home at 5609 NW 130 has three bedrooms, two baths, one half-bath, two living areas, one dining area and an attached three-car garage. The dining room has a hand-scraped, hardwood floor and a bay window. The main living area has built-ins, a cathedral ceiling, fireplace and solar tube skylight.

The country kitchen has a breakfast bar, granite counters and a walk-in pantry. The master bedroom has a his-and-hers bath with doorless shower. The home an outdoor fireplace, covered patio, covered porch and underground sprinkler system.

I admit to being a trifle perplexed by this “doorless shower” thing, but it’s obviously an indoor amenity, and clearly this house is for people who never go outside: my own palatial estate at Surlywood is less than half this size, but it sits on a lot 44 percent bigger. Still, they’re asking $329,900 for it, maybe three times what I’d get for my place.

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A little place to call home

Literally, a little place:

Tiny houses at Pivot Inc.

The deets:

Greater Oklahoma City Chamber member Pivot, Inc. is a nonprofit organization, founded to help youth have safe housing and their other basic needs met.

Pivot has a 16-bed shelter on its campus. The shelter runs at about 92% capacity and is licensed by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. But it can only shelter youth ranging in age from 12 to 17 years old. There are two apartment units for youth older than 17 years old.

Many teenagers are in a gap, where they’re too young to go to an adult shelter, and they’re too old to be in the foster care system. In addition, a teenager who is old enough might not be best served in an adult shelter because of developmental delays, or other vulnerabilities, which have onset because of the trauma the youth has endured.

That’s why the tiny homes are needed. One future tiny-home resident is aging out of foster care, but is excited to know there’s a home waiting for them.

One small step, as it were. Eventually, 85 units are planned.

The tiny homes’ residents will also learn life skills, such as keeping their house clean and paying rent. The youth will sign a lease for their home, which may sound a little restrictive. But this allows the young person to have a rent record — including a reference — for when they move off campus to live independently.

The project will also turn into job training. As the home development continues, the plan is to get the young people involved with the construction so they can see the trades.

Life is much less desperate with a roof over your head. (Been there, experienced that.)

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Sort of in the zone

“Development Services Department” is responsible for zoning in the city, and I definitely was not expecting a letter from them. This is the opening:

This notice is to inform you that [name of couple] has filed an application with the Oklahoma City Board of Adjustment for a Special Exception to permit Lodging Accommodations: Home Sharing without the host living on site. The Board of Adjustment will hold a public hearing on August 1, 2019 July 18, 2019 to consider the request.

There are, according to the Municipal Code, some sixty-eight sets of circumstances for which a Special Exception may be sought. This is the one in question:

A. The rental of the entire home or bedroom(s) may not exceed 30 consecutive days per renter/guest.

B. The host shall be required to comply with any applicable building or fire codes adopted by the City, including but not limited to working smoke detectors, a carbon monoxide detector and a functioning fire extinguisher.

C. The host must obtain a home sharing license.

D. All applicable fees and taxes must be collected and paid.

E. A special exception must be obtained for home sharing where the property:
(1) is not the primary residence of the host; or
(2) is located within the boundaries of a Historic Preservation District, in which case the property shall be the host’s primary residence and occupied by the host at the time of the rental.

Provided, a special exception shall not be required for any property at which, prior to January 15, 2019, lodging accommodations in a dwelling or room(s) in a dwelling were provided for rent for a temporary period of time not exceeding 30 consecutive days per guest and for which a home sharing license has been granted by the Supervisor of Licenses pursuant to Section 13-510 of this Code.

F. A special exception pursuant to Subsection E of this section may be granted for a maximum period of ten years. When the time period expires, if the applicant desires to continue the use, the applicant shall file a new application for a special exception and have the case reviewed by the Board of Adjustment.

These things I know: the house in question is about the same size as mine, and the couple in question bought it last fall for $145,000. This is about forty grand more than anyone has ever paid for a house on that particular block.

So I’m guessing, inasmuch as this story hasn’t hit Nextdoor yet, that they want to get some of that coin back, and they’re going the Airbnb route, in which case I see no reason to object.

Update: The date has changed — two weeks sooner.

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No flow for you

The last tine the city revised the water-billing practices, they also established permanent odd/even sprinkler restrictions. For the most part, residents have taken it well. But there’s always someone:

We were watering our front yard on 35th/Venice and somebody turned our water off, we need to know if anybody saw anything. This person came up to our house and turned it off behind the hedges without notifying us or anything, this is not cool to do this kind of thing, so if anybody saw or did this, please let us know.

There are people who can’t wait for Code Enforcement to come out, and they’ll do something like that. Of course, they won’t mow your 11-inch-high grass: too much like work.

And we’ve had over 30 inches of rain this year, a figure we’d normally reach around Halloween.

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On the CBD side of town

Doing their part for neighborhood preservation, I guess:

For rent, none of that medical marijuana crap

David Dishman writes in the Oklahoman:

Medical marijuana as an industry is booming in Oklahoma, with sales, patients, growers, processors and dispensaries continuing to increase throughout the state.

But while it may seem like there is a dispensary on every corner, not every property owner is open to leasing to marijuana-related businesses.

“If you look at the numbers, we are way oversaturated on retail dispensaries,” University of Central Oklahoma professor David Chapman said. “Here’s the fear … the brokers get calls all day long about dispensaries, and we’re all starting to feel like some of them are going to start to fail.”

It’s just a matter of time before somebody puts a dispensary into a Starbucks — or a Starbucks into a dispensary.

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Kind of an inner-Ring suburb

From yesterday’s real-estate section:

12901 Endor Court in Rivendell addition to Oklahoma City

About the project itself:

A custom home by Craig Smith Building in the Rivendell addition will be decorated by 18 local businesses for a fundraiser to benefit The Sparrow Project, a nonprofit, faith-based organization supporting services to intellectually disabled adults.

The Sparrow Show Home, 12901 Endor Court, will be open to the public June 8-23 with all entrance proceeds going entirely to The Sparrow Project.

“The Sparrow Project fills a huge gap for those with special needs in our community, and we wanted to help. The local businesses that have jumped in are bringing something to this home for everyone: great design and furnishings, outdoor living ideas and even some surprises in the garage spaces,” Craig Smith said.

The Sparrow Project provides a safe environment for post-high school adults with intellectual disabilities to promote happy and fulfilled lives through job skills, life skills, creative interests, and social activities.

Which is a swell idea, especially here in Middle-earth.

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Fifty stories to tell

Some guys were washing the glass on the outside of Devon Tower, and were reminded just how high the Big Drill Bit in the Sky actually is:

There’s a whole lot of broken glass at street level, and it may take a while to clean up the debris. Casualties: zip, which is always good news.

(How high is it? Try 844 feet, a good 300 feet taller than anything else downtown.)

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Dollars 101

A course you will never see in New York or San Francisco:

High school students in Natrona County [Wyoming] are required to complete a financial literacy course in order to graduate.

“The main goal is for students to leave these courses empowered financially,” Natrona County High School Assistant Principal James Catlin told the board.

Catlin said that NC students typically take the course in their junior year.

The course provides skills and information for students to manage themselves financially. That includes lessons on how to plan for a career, how to fill out tax forms, how to prepare a budget, and more.

“It”s a super powerful class, and if you haven’t seen it, you should come around,” Roosevelt Alternative High School Principal Shawna Trujillo said.

It probably should not surprise anyone that Natrona expects students to comply with a dress code:

Something else you won’t see in NYC or SF.

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It’s just a block away

We’re losing someone from the neighborhood, which is a shame; however, this house is now on the market.

One block over and one block south

Built in 1947, this 3-bedroom, 1½-bath home has 1386 square feet of living space and a single-car garage. They’re asking $170,000.

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i blame jet fuel

And, of course, the desire of government agencies to expand their reach:

The Oklahoma City-County Health Department is putting billboards across the city to remind Oklahoma residents that where you live could affect how long you live.

“It’s a shocking statistic,” said Oklahoma City-County Health Department executive director Gary Cox.

The gap is 18 years.

It’s the number that separates the average life expectancy age from the highest average zip code in Oklahoma City to the lowest.

“So what that really means is a child that’s born in one of those zip codes … could live up to 18 years average shorter life span than a child that perhaps may be born in a suburban or another part of our county,” said Cox.

At best, this is only half a surprise:

The lowest life expectancy age, almost 64, is zip code 73145.

Otherwise known as … Tinker Air Force Base.

Which Farker noticed this first? Why, the first one, of course.

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Fare thee well

I knew that rideshare stuff like Lyft and Uber was cutting into the taxi market, but I didn’t think it was this much:

This leaves two competitors: OKC Twister Cab and Thunder Cab. I have spotted a couple of Orange Cabs around here, but I’m not sure if they’re local or just passing through.

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I can too be a chooser

I was turning onto my street when I saw her, trudging along at maybe half speed. Be nice if I could move that fast, I thought.

I went through the usual gymnastics it takes to get me out of the car, and there she was at the top of my driveway. “I’m four months pregnant,” she said, “and I’m awfully hungry.”

Well, yeah, she looked about four months pregnant. I thought for a moment, then peeled off a five-spot. “Maybe this will help.”

She didn’t even bat an eye. “You can’t get anything to eat around here for less than eight.”

The audacity of “Help!” Never heard that pitch delivered quite that way before.

I handed her another fiver and went inside, on the sensible basis that I probably didn’t want her to see me unloading a trunkful of groceries.

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Warded off

Half of the eight seats for City Council were up for grabs today, and since the Ward 2 incumbent chose not to run again, there were two questions yet unresolved. (The other one: how does a city of 650,000 get by with only eight wards?)

The polling place, as usual for elections at this level, had about three poll-watchers per voter. At 5:03 pm I cast ballot number 195 in precinct number, um, 195. This is perhaps disappointing when you consider that at least 1251 voters — the number voting in the gubernatorial race — turned out for the 2018 fall extravaganza.

But so be it. Good luck to the winner, whoever that might be.

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Mirror image

From the list of city building permits in yesterday’s Oklahoman:

Duplex to be built at 911 NW 13

Ought to be a pretty darn spiffy duplex, if it costs that much to build.

Me, I wonder: are both sides 911, or will one of the units be redesignated as 909 or 913?

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Presumably beer was held

Float, float, float your truck, gently down the — hully crap, this is like eight feet deep:

News9.com – Oklahoma City, OK – News, Weather, Video and Sports |

Um, guys, it’s not the early 1990s anymore. They don’t actually have to mow the riverbed the way they used to.

(Fillyjonk showed me this.)

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I spy with my little hidden eye

Now and then, we all, for certain values of “all,” like to take a peek. Then there are those who go way overboard:

A workman accused of hiding cameras in two homes to spy on young girls was charged Friday with more than 20 felonies, including aggravated possession of obscene material involving minors, manufacturing child pornography and using video equipment in a clandestine manner.

Is it just me, or does that last charge — “using video equipment in a clandestine manner” — sound rather vague?

Ryan Aaron Alden, 39, of The Village, placed hidden cameras in the ceiling vents of two homes, one in Nichols Hills and one in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County prosecutors allege. He reportedly placed the cameras in the homes while performing electrical work.

The cameras were hidden for months, Nichols Hills police reported.

“He got the idea of hiding the cameras and where to put them from watching pornography,” police reported in a court affidavit. “He informed me that the residents were always very trusting and that is why he ‘preyed’ on them.”

Alden also is accused of taking clandestine photos of girls in numerous public places, including gyms, schools, stores, mall changing rooms and a high school football game.

The upskirt-gatherer is, I suggest, the lowest form of perv: it’s not that his offense is especially heinous, but it goes several steps below banal.

Alden was being held in the Oklahoma County jail Friday on $251,000 bail. He also was sued Friday by the mother of the Nichols Hills victim.

What are the chances this guy has ever had a normal romantic relationship?

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Where it all goes (’18)

Butch Freeman, the County Treasurer again — he was re-elected this past week — can be counted on to send out a notice to us lowly escrow-payers telling us just how the county is spending the proceeds from our property-tax bills. As is the usual practice around here, I’m passing the details on to you (last year’s numbers in [brackets]):

  • City of Oklahoma City: $122.21 [$123.21]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $465.42 [$479.27]
  • Metro Tech Center: $122.23 [$124.74]
  • Oklahoma County general: $92.63 [$96.57]
  • Countywide school levy: $32.75 [$33.43]
  • City/County Health Department: $20.49 [$20.91]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $41.13 [$41.98]
  • Total: $897.31 [$915.19]

This year’s millage is 113.44, up a pittance from last year’s 113.35. (Record millage: 117.58, 2011.) The assessed value, per the Assessor, is off a few bucks from last year, has increased by a whopping 1.3 percent over the last four years, and still hasn’t broken a hundred grand despite the notions of sites like Zillow, whose Zestimate starts at $114,000. Then again, I’ve been here long enough to fall under the state’s cap law: they can’t jack up the assessed value more than five percentage points in any single year, unless the property changes hands, and as of 2019, the valuation freezes solid, an example of Senior Discounts I can, um, appreciate.

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A Nice win

Her birth certificate says “Alberta Nicole Swanegan Owens,” but no matter. She’s been Nikki Nice for years, a name she built for herself working for Russell Perry’s urban-formatted radio stations, and a name she’ll undoubtedly continue to use as Ward 7’s representative on City Council.

And apparently she’s going to have to look for another radio job, since Perry let her go the day after the election: “We’ve taken a different direction,” he said, saying it had nothing to do with her winning the Council seat.

Nice will be sworn in on the 19th, and she’ll draw her Council salary starting from then. It’s not enough to live on, though: Council members are paid $12,000 a year. (The Mayor gets twice that.)

Addendum: I was pointed to this video from her watch party Tuesday night:

It wasn’t even close: she got over 70 percent of the vote.

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Area man buys house

One year, Daughter and I were cruising around town looking at houses, and after one too many mansions, she asked: “What sort of millionaires buy these places?”

17408 Hawks View Ct

This little starter home sold for $715,000 last month to Terrance Ferguson, age 20 and almost a half, shooting guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He is paid $2,118,840 a year, and is under contract for the next three years, with a team option for the fourth.

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The cost of Costco

At the top of this week’s City Building Permit list:

Building permit for OKC Costco for $21,583,787

This does not include $1,770,000 for 13220 N Western, which is presumably the Costco gasoline station.

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Here today, gone tomorrow

Oh, I’m sorry. It was gone yesterday:

Another mid-century landmark, the former Founders Bank, is being destroyed this week as new development continues to encroach on 1960s architecture that once dominated the skyline along Northwest Expressway and May Avenue.

The football-shaped Founders National Bank building at 5613 N. May, built in 1964, is anchored by two 50-foot exterior arches. It was last home to Bank of America.

What used to be Founders Bank

Preservation Oklahoma placed the bank on its endangered places list earlier this year. The committee that assembled the list noted the former Founders Bank is one of Oklahoma City’s best examples of mid-century modern architecture, and it’s the only known local design of the architect and former Bruce Goff student, Bob Bowlby. The building’s arches, a landmark on North May Avenue and Northwest Expressway, removed the need for any interior walls inside the bank.

A building permit for demolition was filed at City Hall Monday morning at the same time Midwest Wrecking began tearing down the structure.

Clearly they didn’t want anyone noticing until it was too late.

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And all will be fulfilled

AP wire, late May:

Amazon.com announced plans to open its first fulfillment center in Oklahoma, creating more than 1,500 full-time jobs by the end of 2019. The more than 600,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility will be located in Oklahoma City.

“We’re excited to open our first fulfillment center in Oklahoma and in a city with an outstanding workforce and a commitment to providing great opportunities for employment,” said Mark Stewart, Amazon’s Vice President of North America Customer Fulfillment. “Amazon is committed to creating a positive economic impact in Oklahoma City and enhancing the customer experience throughout the region.”

Oklahoma City building permits, The Oklahoman, 7 July:

Seefried Industrial Properties, 9201 S Portland Ave., office-warehouse, (Amazon), erect, $150,000,000.

A sensible place for Amazon, a mile and a half southeast of Will Rogers World Airport and a quarter-mile west of Interstate 44, just inside Cleveland County. The Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust has already approved $1.7 million worth of tax incentives for Amazon, in exchange for job creation and capital investment at the facility. There eventually will be about 1500 jobs for actual humans at the plant, and God knows how many robots.

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Where a need was seen

Saturday’s Oklahoman generally contains a list of Oklahoma City building permits, and this one was on top yesterday: Positive Tomorrows, 901 N Villa Ave., school, erect, $8,000,000.

This is not what you’d call an up-and-coming neighborhood:

Bing map of NW 8th and Villa, Oklahoma City

Then again, this is exactly where they need to be:

As Oklahoma’s only elementary school specifically for homeless children, we give kids stability and a quality education while their parents get the support they need to create a better life. For over 25 years, we have filled our scrapbooks with countless success stories, but the need continues. Together we can break the cycle of homelessness and poverty.

The new school doubles the available space, though there’s no possible way they can accommodate more than a tiny fraction of the estimated 4,000 homeless kids in the area.

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