Listen to this article here
The North Side is bordered with red lines that originate from red flames chasing Black lives away from their homes and businesses precisely 100 years ago. Now, on the back end of the Greenwood Race Massacre’s centennial anniversary, District 1 Chair Councilwoman Vanessa Hall-Harper, a Black development company and Boom Town Co. are planning to build Black Wall Street Square at Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and E. Reading St. They are proposing 24 units, 8 market rate and the other 16 will be considered affordable.
On Tuesday, the new development held a town hall with councilperson Hall-Harper, McGee Enterprises Inc., and Boom Town Development Co. They asked for community input in regards to the new affordable home ownership units. According to lead developer Terry McGee, Casey Stowe, the new Tulsa Development Authority (TDA) Director, said at the pre-submission meeting that he didn’t plan on going out to the community and asking what they think. His reasoning was because the request on the proposal is for a residential lot, so they are really asking to put back what used to be there.
“In my mind, I’m thinking ‘not in this community, you ain’t finna let something go down without asking,’” Developer Terry McGee said.
“There were probably eight or nine other people in the Zoom meeting, and I didn’t have to say anything else. Everyone else was like, ‘why aren’t we talking to the community? I don’t understand?’ So TDA stepped back and said they made a mistake,” McGee added.
The developers and TDA surveyed door to door the 300 foot radius surrounding the property. Tulsa Black Contractors Association will help build on the land that TDA owns. They were the Black builders behind Oasis Grocery Store and other locations in North Tulsa.
“Another way of looking at it is how do we get people that look like us working on these projects,” McGee asked. “Making money to then keep money circulating in our community.”
TDA was renamed, relocated, and is under new ownership. Formerly known as Urban Development Authority, TDA is responsible for what many consider the gentrification of Greenwood — post-Race Massacre and redlining.
Where TDA missed their mark in the ‘60s is the same target that this new development is aiming for: affordable housing. You can now find the past newspaper clippings about TDA from its history with urban (negro) removal at the Greenwood Cultural Center.
Home ownership is a key and clear point that City Council Chair Hall-Harper repeated throughout the town hall. Senator Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, was present, raised his hand, and explained how the main benefit to the community with this new property will be the taxes it brings that can be spent on schools, fire department and more for the community members.
“Sales tax revenue, we got to have it,” McGee said. “Sales tax drives the police department, fire department, schools, public workers, and more.”
The community voiced their concern and asked what the minimum income range would be for applicants to these new units. McGee Enterprises explained how the original proposal on the table before him was six affordable houses. Out of the 16 affordable units proposed, Boomtown Development Co. will use their deposit program that they’ve included with previous properties which will be implemented into the applicants for Black Wall Street Square.
Some residents in close proximity voiced frustration toward a building they believe will cause them more issues. One neighbor on the corner of E. Reading St. and N. Cincinnati PL voiced their concern about traffic increasing, property value increasing and gentrification. Then someone responded about Black middle class communities moving in and increasing the value of a neighborhood is not always a bad thing.
“Right now, we are in a housing crisis, so I think this is really good for North Tulsa,” A neighbor of the square said. “We can’t always be like ‘Oh, is it going to be enough for the low income people?’ Well, what about the middle class people? Why not gentrify our own neighborhoods.”
Council Person Hall-Harper assured everyone that what was happening was not gentrification. Neighborhood Liaison for the City of Tulsa, Alisia Myers, shared near the end of the Town Hall that the issue was not whether the buildings were family-centered or enticing because there are many people already lining up to move to North Tulsa.
“These are people with good jobs and wanting to move here,” Myers said.
“We’re in the middle of the United States, and people cannot afford to live on the West Coast anymore. They’re moving East. So, we really don’t have to worry about the rooftops; it’s just a matter of the developers and having a good developer who will listen to what you have to say.”
McGee Enterprises and Boomtown Co. have promised to have more meetings in the future. They plan on keeping the community involved.
For more information you can visit BlackWallStreetSquare.org.