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May 27, 2011

Planned Catoosa shopping center loses movie theater, gets Walmart

CLAREMORE — The planned Catoosa Hills shopping center has lost the 18-screen movie theater that city officials hoped would draw visitors from several counties — and will get a Walmart Supercenter instead.

The $36 million development on 193rd East Avenue across from the Hard Rock Casino was billed as regional shopping hub mainly because of the Warren Theaters-operated multiplex, but an official told the city council Thursday that attempts to sign the company as the anchoring tenant failed despite its earlier commitment.

The shopping center still would require the creation of a tax increment financing district, but city councilors must approve the latest changes. They approved the TIF district in its original form last January.

“The overall concept is the same,” Catoosa Economic Development Authority attorney Dan McMahan said.

He said the shopping center still would create 750 to 1,000 part-time and full-time jobs, but the additional space required for Walmart means “one or two” fewer lots for restaurants, slightly less space for other shopping and the same or slightly more space for medical offices.

Original plans had seven to 10 restaurants and 32,000 square feet for small shops and medical offices.

Another difference is that construction would take four years instead of two, McMahan said. Developers had planned to finish quickly because Warren Theaters would have handled construction on its own property, he said.

Construction could begin this summer.

City leaders are considering funding street work, aiding developers and financing the TIF district with a $36 million bond, up from $35 in the original proposal. Developers now say they need $25 million of that, up from $23.7 million.

The TIF district, which would include the shopping center and existing businesses on 193rd East Avenue, would redirect sales and property tax within the district to repay the bond. The district would remain in effect for 20 years unless it is canceled early by a citywide vote.

Existing tax revenue would continue to go to the city and county.

The proposal still promises the city of Catoosa $1.1 million and Catoosa schools $300,000 to make up for tax revenue lost because of the TIF district. McMahan said the city likely would have to use that money to expand either Cherokee Street or East Mcnabb Field Road, which could serve as entrances for the shopping center.

Originally proposed last November, the shopping center earned praise from city officials who said it would be an entertainment and shopping destination that would draw Tulsa and Wagoner county shoppers.

McMahan at the time said the total investment in Catoosa Hills, including by third-party companies, could reach $100 million. He said Thursday it now could range from $75 to $90 million.

Thursday was the first of two public hearings over the changes. The city council will meet at 6 p.m. next Friday for the second.

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