Construction projects ongoing in Enid | News


Construction was a key word in Enid throughout 2018.

It seemed everywhere we turned there was work being done somewhere, particularly on our streets. Other top stories included work finally beginning on the long-awaited downtown hotel; the statewide teacher walkout, which closed Enid Public Schools for two weeks; the changing retail face of our city; the demise of the Wind Catcher Energy Connection project; and the controversy surrounding a planned transitional housing facility for women.

The News & Eagle continues its look back at the big stories of 2018.

Road work ahead

Major construction projects were going on throughout the year along West Willow, the area around the intersection of Cleveland and Chestnut and the North Van Buren overpass. All of those forced drivers to seek alternate routes.

One, the widening of Willow from Cleveland to Oakwood started Feb. 13, 2017, and finally ended in August when BNSF Railway crews installed and tested new crossing equipment.

The project included widening the road to four lanes, and to constructing trails, sidewalk and storm drainage improvements.

The first phase involved work on Willow, from Cleveland to Nicholas Oaks, and the second phase involved work beginning 500 feet east of Oakwood and extending a little past Sleepy Hollow Drive.

Workers skipped to the fourth phase, ahead of the holiday season, which involved work between Woodlands Drive and Nicholas Oaks. Willow was temporarily reopened for the holiday season. In February, the portion between Woodlands Drive and Sleepy Hollow, was closed for completion of the project.

Oklahoma Department of Transportation was the contracting party on the project. The city of Enid was responsible for $2.5 million of the shared $4.2 million construction contract.

The work at Cleveland and Chestnut was ongoing at year’s end.

In August, work on the Cleveland Boulevard and Cleveland and Chestnut intersection project moved into the third phase.

Consisting of six phases, the project is expected to be completed 450 calendar days from when work began in May. City Manager Jerald Gilbert said the work is expected to be completed by the fall of 2019.

Through the project, Cleveland will be widened with two lanes both ways from Chestnut to one-half mile north, just south of the railroad crossing. At the intersection, the Cleveland portions of it will be improved to five lanes — with two north and southbound lanes and turn lanes. There will be a three-lane intersection on Chestnut, which will include a left turning bay.

Oklahoma Department of Transportation is funding part of the project — with its share at $2 million — while the city is covering $1.9 million. ODOT is managing and executing the project.

The other big project going on is replacement of the North Van Buren overpass over the BNSF Railway tracks.

A $10.9 million contract was awarded by ODOT in June to Bridges Inc. doing business as Scudder Bridge Co. of Newton, Kan. There’s a 15-month estimate for construction to be complete.

About 14,600 vehicles travel the bridge — which span more than seven train tracks — daily, on average. The structure was built in 1957 and has been ruled structurally deficient.

Fight for education

Enid Public Schools teachers joined educators from across the state in April lobbying at the Capitol for increased funding for education.

Enid students ended up missing two weeks of classes during the walkout. Other area schools were out for lesser periods of time.

In the end, lawmakers passed, and Gov. Mary Fallin signed, a revenue package that provided by average $6,100 raises for classroom teachers, as well as increases for support personnel. The measures also increased classroom funding by about $50 million. The breakdown was: $365 million for the teacher raise package; $52 million for support staff raises; $33 million for textbooks; and $17 million to be added to the funding formula.

Many current or former teachers also filed to run for offices, but results were mixed following the November general election. At least 19 current or former educators won seats in the Legislature, but two sitting lawmakers who were former educators lost.

Going up

Construction finally started on the long-awaited downtown hotel.

The Best Western GLō hotel will have 96 rooms and four floors.

The city of Enid has pursued a downtown hotel since 2011, when developer LodgeWell LLC was selected. The developer was unsuccessful in attaining financing for the project.

Then, Peachtree Hotel Group II LLC was selected, but around December 2015, when the price of oil dropped, the developer started getting nervous about the Enid market and the project stalled again.

Finally, the city began working with Aston Management in June 2016. Enid Economic Development Authority entered into a master development agreement on Feb. 23, 2017, with the hotel developer, ENIDBWP LLC — which is Aston Management and Dr. Atul Patel — for the construction of a Best Western GLō hotel. Patel previously has built a couple of hotels in Enid and others in Chickasha and in Oklahoma City.

The city of Enid has pursued a downtown hotel since 2011, when developer LodgeWell LLC was selected. The developer was unsuccessful in attaining financing for the project.

When the contract with LodgeWell expired, Peachtree Hotel Group II LLC was selected. Around December 2015, when the price of oil dropped, the developer started getting nervous about the Enid market, said Brent Kisling, Enid Regional Development Alliance director. The city of Enid began working with Aston Management in June 2016. Patel previously said he has built a couple of hotels in Enid and others in Chickasha and in Oklahoma City.

City Manager Jerald Gilbert said it is expected the hotel will open sometime in the May to July timeframe in 2019.

Wind Catcher fails

Public Service Company of Oklahoma in July announced the cancellation of the controversial Wind Catcher Energy Connection project.

The decision came after the Public Utility Commission of Texas’s decision to deny approval of the project. Previously, Wind Catcher received approvals by the Arkansas Public Service Commission, Louisiana Public Service Commission and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Oklahoma Corporation Commission never ruled on the project.

Wind Catcher Energy Connection was a joint effort between Southwestern Electric Power Co. and PSO, and would have been a $4.5 billion project that involved building a wind farm in Oklahoma, a 350-mile power line through Northwest Oklahoma and two substations. SWEPCO would have owned 70 percent of the project, and PSO the other 30 percent.

The wind farm was to be built on 300,000 acres in Cimarron and Texas counties in the Panhandle include about 800 2.5 MW wind turbines. A power line was set to stretch from there to Tulsa, bringing 2,000 megawatts of energy to customers in eastern and southwest Oklahoma, in addition to parts of Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. PSO’s share of the project investment would have been $1.36 billion.

A number of leaders in Northwest Oklahoma had expressed support for the project, while other leaders and numerous landowners set to have their properties impacted by the power line have voiced concern and opposition.

PSO took some action against landowners against the project in May. Letters from a law firm representing the company were sent to about two dozen landowners who had refused access to their property for environmental surveys. According to those receiving the letters, PSO threatened to file injunctions if landowners didn’t allow officials on their properties to do the environmental surveys.

Rezoning controversy

A plan by Forgotten Ministries to have the city of Enid rezone property for transition housing for women ran into a legal roadblock in early December when several property owners filed suit against the city over its handling of the project at 301 E. Iowa.

Plaintiffs listed in the case are Valentin Alatorre and Barbara Finley, and the causes of action for the lawsuit include “Injunctive Relief, violation of the fourteenth amendment, substantive and procedural due process, violation of the First Amendment to United States Constitution Establishment Clause, and failure to comply with the laws of the State of Oklahoma,” according to the lawsuit filed in Garfield County District Court on Nov. 30.

Alatorre and Finley are property owners and Enid residents. Alatorre’s property abuts within 30 feet of 301 E. Iowa, while Finley’s is within a quarter mile of the rezoned property, according to the lawsuit. Attorney Ronald “Skip” Kelly is representing the pair, and all three previously spoke at Enid City Commission and Metropolitan Area Planning Commission meetings against the rezoning.

The rezoning request — from R-2 Residential Single Family District to R-7 Residential Multi-Family District — made by Forgotten Ministries involves property at 301 E. Iowa, on the southeast corner of 3rd and Iowa. It allows for a transitional living center with a maximum density of 12 people. The zoning surrounding the area is R-2 to the east, north and south, and R-4 to the west, according to the city.

City commissioners on Nov. 6 approved the rezoning request in a 5-2 vote after MAPC recommended approval of the request in its mid-October meeting in a 6-1 vote. Originally, the rezoning was approved by city commissioners in September, but the decision was rendered “null and void” after city officials realized they failed to properly provide notice in a newspaper.

Business changes

Enid saw quite a few changes in its business landscape during 2018.

Two longtime establishments, Kmart and Western Sizzlin’, closed this year.

Kmart, a fixture for many years at the corner of Garriott and Oakwood, closed earlier this year. Sears Holding, which operates Sears and Kmart, made the move as the company continues to struggle financially.

Western Sizzlin’ closed in late December after 37 years. Owner Steve Harris is retiring, and he sold the building to Swadley’s World Famous Bar-B-Q, which will open after renovating the building in the spring. Western Sizzlin opened its doors on West Garriott on Dec. 15, 1981.

Several other businesses announced plans to open in Enid or did open in 2018.

Casey’s General Store opened at the intersection of Oakwood and Randolph.

Brady Sidwell and Justin Blasier plan to open Enid Brewing Company on the northwest corner of the Independence and Maine intersection, in downtown Enid. Sidwell is originally from Goltry, where he lived on a farm. He returned to the area a couple of years ago and has a number of businesses, including Enterprise Grain Co. and a malt business. Blasier, an Enid native, is a home brewer.

Chloe Fuksa opened Putnam Six bookstore in Sunset Plaza. The store will offer new books, and there will be a strong emphasis on books for children. Fuksa has plans to expand selection over time, based on taste and demand from the community, but for now is sticking mostly to best sellers, prizewinners and buzz generating must-reads.

Discount Tire is under construction at 5125 W. Garriott, west of the ALDI grocery store, and will open in March. The 7,000-square-foot building will feature six service bays and a 1,300-square-foot showroom.

Finer Physiques has operated in Enid for more than two decades but moved in March to the former Palace Bingo building, a 22,000-square-foot facility at 2101 N. Van Buren.

The wellness center includes workout equipment in the gym, as well as staff to help with health screenings. Healthful snacks and meals are also available on-site at Finer Cuisine, a restaurant independently owned and operated by a pair of nutrition-conscious chefs.

ALDI grocery store at 5001 W. Garriott closed in the summer and re-opened in July after a major expansion. It features more fresh items, including more larger produce, dairy and bakery sections.


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