Broken Arrow’s Innovation District takes a step forward
By John Dobberstein, Editor
The Innovation District championed by city leaders in Broken Arrow has taken a small step forward.
The Broken Arrow City Council approved a contract with a Tulsa firm that will design the infrastructure elements for the district.
The department chose BKL from a list of ranked, qualified firms that submitted statements of qualifications to negotiate a design agreement. The design agreement calls for constructing a new 4-lane roadway from Florence Street southward about 2,100 feet.
Other improvements included in the agreement are a traffic signal on Florence Street; addition of a right turn lane along the south side of Florence; landscaping, irrigation, and gateway at Florence Street intersection; curb and gutter; enclosed storm sewer system; sidewalk and trail; waterline; sanitary sewer line with a lift station; street lighting and “other appurtenances.”
The contract also include services for identification of right-of-way and easement needs and utility relocation coordination as necessary. The cost of the design contract with BKL is $757,750.00.
Broken Arrow site shows favorably
The 90-acre Innovation District will be located along Florence Street between Olive and Aspen avenues in south Broken Arrow, south of Florence.
The district will be a mixed-use development featuring residential, commercial and educational components while focusing on high-paying career opportunities. The project is a collaborative effort between the city of Broken Arrow, developers, local businesses and the Broken Arrow Economic Development Corp., as well as public and higher education.
The aim is to recruit businesses, provide support, and create a pipeline to keep locally grown talented individuals in Broken Arrow.
A recent summary report from the Dallas firm Site Selection Group (SSG) evaluated a number of strengths and challenges for the district. SSG was asked to grade the m marketing plan and key target markets, perform a workforce analysis and compare Broken Arrow to the competition in other areas.
They also looked at the Innovation District’s operating costs and provide a site analysis and a site visit.
The best opportunities for Broken Arrow’s development are likely in advanced manufacturing and production, engineering and potentially, in the long-term, life sciences – especially considering the comparatively high cost of Texas markets in that sector, the firm said.
Attracting IT-type employers would be a harder sell currently due to the strength of competitive markets like Austin and current constraints of the local labor market.
The city purchased the land for the district in 2021 for $5 million. But SGG said it “applauds and agrees with Broken Arrow’s vision to sell the land outright,” rather than being a long-term landlord leasing buildings or land. Many advanced manufacturers want to own their assets.
Piece of the puzzle
In 2021 a group of 30 individuals from the city, EDC, the business sector and representatives from public and higher education traveled to Greenville, S.C. for a two-day visit to see how city leaders successfully invested in the development of its innovation hub, which connects high-growth, high-impact entrepreneurs to innovators, facilities, capital, and talent.
City leaders have also toured similar developments in Denver, Dallas, Houston and Oklahoma City to get a better feel of how they were developed.
SSG suggested Broken Arrow leaders “take a broader view of all property owners, stakeholders, and potential projects going up on neighboring properties” since the 90 acres could be absorbed quickly with only a couple of primary job generators.
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SSG liked the access to the Innovation District from the Creek Turnpike and potential tie-ins to the proposed $51 million Elam Park.
Among other things, SSG suggested support for more “high-end” retail and commercial development on the west side of the district and recreational opportunities to the north, and to connect all those resources “to allow more flexibility of use on the actual district grounds.
Additionally, Broken Arrow leaders should “begin conversations on how training/education/university partners could be a potential pioneering catalyst for development of real estate on site,” SSG said. “We oftentimes see educational partners being a first mover to seed these types of development.”
Watch Broken Arrow EDC President Jennifer Conway’s update on the innovation district below.