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Controversy brewing about Penn Square Mall expansion

OKLAHOMA CITY - A new container store is drumming up some controversy in the Belle Isle area surrounding Penn Square Mall.

The popular store has still not confirmed they are coming to Oklahoma City.

But, plans for construction seem to be moving forward as Penn Square Mall has requested to rezone the area to the northwest of the existing mall to secure a spot for The Container Store.

There are more than 1,000 houses in the three neighborhoods that make up Belle Isle.

Thirteen properties sit adjacent to the proposed site and will be most closely affected, because they are within 300 feet of the planned development.

Those properties are in Wileman's Eighth neighborhood, which includes 100 houses to the north of Penn Square Mall.

Many of those neighbors are opposed to the development.

"There's a lot of vacant properties around Oklahoma City," said Lester Murray. "That store doesn't have to go in Penn Square Mall's parking lot right across the creek from our neighborhood."

Murray and others are concerned about traffic, noise, trash and all the inconveniences that go along with being next door neighbors with a giant retailer.

The proposed building is 23,000 square feet.

"The neighborhood will suffer some negative consequences if this building reclassification is approved. There is no benefit that I can see to the neighborhood," Murray said.

Meanwhile, on the west side of Penn, most folks are excited about the new store.

This will be the first Container Store for the state of Oklahoma.

"More and more people are moving in, which is increasing our values, and they consistently say it's because of the convenience to everything. It's wonderful," said Heather Davis, who is a co-president for the Wileman's Belle Isle Neighborhood Association, which sits on the west side of Penn. "(The Container Store) would be one more thing that would be great. We've been able to benefit from the changes at Classen Curve and Nichols Hills Plaza, and this is even closer."

Both neighbors for and against the proposal agree on one thing: the concerns of the neighbors most affected should be addressed.

Penn Square Mall developers have agreed to meet with the homeowners Thursday night to begin to address their concerns.

"Hopefully, Penn Square will address their concerns and everybody will be happy, but I don't know that that's going to happen," said Wileman's Eight Neighborhood Association President Richie Tuohy.

The Oklahoma City Planning Commission heard from concerned neighbors last month and postponed their decision until the neighbors meet with Penn Square.

Neighbors are invited to meet with the development team at 6:30 p.m. at Belle Isle Library.

The planning commission will vote on the proposal to rezone the area on January 12.