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OKC could force downtown property owners to sell around new park

OKLAHOMA CITY –  Big changes are on the way to downtown Oklahoma City.

On Tuesday city leaders gave themselves the right to buy dozens of city blocks surrounding the future 70 acre MAPS 3 park.

That move means the city can use eminent domain if needed to force property owners around the park to sell.

The city’s goal is to promote development around the future park.

Business owner Marie Roberson said, “The park will be beautiful and this area should be beautiful too.”

For 40 years, Marie’s business has been open to the public

Her building sits inside the city’s new acquisition area just south of the Chesapeake Arena.

Marie has already agreed to sell to an outside developer.

She agrees with city leaders who argue in order for the downtown park to succeed, it needs to be surrounded by quality development.

Roberson said, “I would not want to have a beautiful park and something like this to look at, so I agree with the city that it should come down.”

Cathy O’Conner with the Alliance for Economic Development said, “Private development is going to be important to the success of the park so people that have places to go and things to do.”

The city’s new acquisition area stretches down Robinson to the Oklahoma River and as far west as Reno and Shartel near the planned convention center and downtown boulevard.

Still, while the plan passed, not everyone on council agreed the city should force property owners to sell.

Councilman James Greiner said, “Acquiring private land that’s not for public use rubs me the wrong way.”

Councilman Pete White agreed with Greiner stating, “My skepticism is healthy because we haven’t always done it right.”

O’Conner says that not everyone will have to sell their property.

“We have no plans to acquire all the property adjacent to the park. We don’t have funds to do that, but if we need to acquire a parcel we could,” said O’Connor.

The plan is to begin construction on the central park within the year.

How long it takes to develop the land surrounding the park remains up in the air.