Tulsa delays agreement with Black developer on Greenwood site
Written By: Deon Osborne
(GREENWOOD DISTRICT, Okla.) The first Black woman to lead an estimated $68 million development project in Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District says the city’s refusal to provide a redevelopment agreement is preventing her from securing necessary financial lenders.
In May 2022, Franchell Abdalla, the principal developer for Be Good Development and the lead for Team Alchemy, was granted the award to redevelop the long-dilapidated Historic Oklahoma Iron Works Building–the Evans-Fintube site–in the heart of Greenwood.
A year later, the city has delayed providing the redevelopment agreement, a standard document that shows her ownership over the site’s construction.
At a meeting of the Tulsa Authority for Economic Development (TAEO) on Thursday morning, Abdalla gave an update on the status of the project and revealed that potential lenders had pulled out of the project due to her not having a redevelopment agreement.
Following her presentation, Abdalla had one question for the board: “Why?”
“We’ve been here really at the starting line for a year, and it’s time to move forward,” Abdalla told the board.
Team Alchemy project seeks to transform long-neglected Evans-Fintube site in Greenwood
Abdalla’s vision for the site would bring historic economic development and community greenspace to the Greenwood District.
The estimated $68 million project is set to include a boutique 64-key hotel with a social club and shared amenity space for all tenants, a locally-owned brewery and tap room, a curated chef’s collective, experiential retail and other shops on the ground floor. The transformational project will also house a makerspace and hybrid offices for creatives, artists and entrepreneurs.
For Abdalla, it’s all about “being able to provide a full ecosystem of opportunity” for Greenwood and North Tulsa residents.
“Today, I do not have a redevelopment agreement. I have a draft document,” Abdalla told the TAEO board on Thursday. “So, my question is why?”
No redevelopment agreement? No funding.
Following the presentation, no board members responded to her request for an explanation. In her presentation, Abdalla included an email from Carrie Sanders with Hope Community Capital.
“In a scenario where a public entity is conveying the land to the developer, most often this is demonstrated through a redevelopment agreement,” Sanders said to Abdalla in a May 24 email.
For months before even securing the award, Abdalla met with Tulsa city employees, the TAEO board, and community stakeholders in a series of three community meetings that helped her shape her proposal to meet the needs of those most impacted.
Emails between Abdalla and Partner Tulsa show the board has requested additional edits before it will finalize an agreement. A trustee of Partner Tulsa told The Black Wall Street Times on background that the city does not enter into redevelopment agreements until the full contracting team is assembled.
Meanwhile, Abdalla told The Black Wall Street Times she’s been limited in her ability to gather funding from the beginning. In total, the project consists of three phases: the hotel and offices, affordable housing and additional hospitality. Yet because the city has only approved phase one, potential lenders have soured on their support.
“As we’ve completed our initial analysis, we’ve concluded this project is far more speculative than we typically pursue,” Joseph Weatherly with McCormack Baron Salazar told Abdalla in a May 19 email. “Given our robust pipeline and existing commitments, we are going to pass at this time.”
Partner Tulsa responds
In an email sent to The Black Wall Street Times, Partner Tulsa Executive Director Kian Kamas said negotiations around a redevelopment agreement and contract of sale began immediately after Team Alchemy was awarded the project. During the year-long process, some partners withdrew from the team, which Kamas says is the reason the agreement has been delayed.
“These negotiations were initiated 17 days following the award of the project and continued through January 2023 when PartnerTulsa was notified of the withdrawal of J.E. Dunn and Michael Collins with Greyson Capital as co-development partners,” Kamas told The Black Wall Street Times.
“The withdrawal of key development partners from any development team presents substantial potential risks to a project’s viability, which is why the Request for Project Documentation was requested earlier this year. Team Alchemy’s deadline was extended by 3 months to allow for ample time to respond. Upon receiving the requested information by the June 1 deadline, PartnerTulsa will thoroughly review the documentation and any redevelopment requests. Further, we intend to work alongside the City to determine whether negotiations will continue based upon the information submitted.”
What happens next?
Moving forward, Abdalla hopes the redevelopment agreement will be finalized on June 1, but her trust in the process has waned.
When asked if she believes her race and gender play a role in the delays, she said “absolutely.”
“We know that time kills all deals, and so extending the timeline is both unnecessary, and it’s challenging. The [dilapidated Iron Works]building is a continual representation of the city’s belief” of what Greenwood deserves, Abdalla said.
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