Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Authority Attempts to Clear Equestrian Pearl Log Jam

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Authority Attempts to Clear Equestrian Pearl Log Jam

Article excerpt

A way to eliminate a legal log jam and clear the way for private development of the Equestrian Pearl is being explored by the Oklahoma City Riverfront Development Authority, it was reported Thursday.

A study has been ordered to see if portions of the 348 acres are no longer suitable for park uses, said Ward 4 Councilman Pete White, chairman of the authority. The Pearl, which is part of the city String of Pearls project, is located along the N. Canadian River on both sides of Int. Hwy. 44.

If the property is determined no longer suitable for development as park property, a lease may be signed for a $40 million to $65 million private development by Equestrian Pearl Development Co., headed by Stan Gralla of the Gralla Associates architectural firm.

A report is scheduled at the next riverfront authority meeting in September.

Proposed private development includes a riding stable, lodge, horse motel, restaurants and offices for equine-related associations, said Gralla.

"It would be a place for families to stay, eat and have fun," said Gralla, "especially during equine events at the State Fairgrounds. Development of a race track in the city would help, but we havebeen thinking primarily of the horse shows.

"We are quite pleased about this latest development."

The Equestrian Pearl Development Co. has been negotiating for a lease since 1982, when the City Council accepted its basic plan.

"The problem," said White, "is that the land was acquired by the city for park use with general obligation bonds. That puts it in a narrow category. State law makes it difficult to use park property for commercial development, and the fact that it was acquired with general obligation bonds makes it harder.

"What we want to do is combine private development with park property so the private revenue-producing development would pay for the development, operation and maintenance of the park."

Park development may include a picnic pavilion, riding and jogging trails and other items.

Pat Downs, director of community development for Oklahoma City, and the city attorney's office have been directed to study the 348 acres.

The study, which was directed during a meeting of the riverfront authority Wednesday, will be made to determine if part of the land can be used for revenue producing development, said Downs.

Downs said there are two basic legal question:

- If all of the land is still suitable for traditional park use, then private development may not be possible.

- If portions of the land are no longer suitable for traditional park uses, the feeling is that the city can lease the land for private development. …

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