Proposed Warren Theatre pushes ahead, despite opposition from Oklahoma City residents

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- A Warren Theatre, proposed on the northeast side of Oklahoma City, received the city council's blessing, despite strong, organized opposition from people living near the area.

For more than two hours Tuesday morning, people living around N.E. 122nd St. and Eastern Ave. told the council how they felt about plans for a three-story theater and retail space just off the Kilpatrick Turnpike.

"My concern is when they put in this new development that they're talking about that this is going to amp the amount of traffic load on here," said Linda Cowell, a 17-year resident of the Oaks III neighborhood just north of the proposed theater site. "Oh yes, it's absolutely changed the dynamics of this space and what we all intended this space to be."

People living north of the turnpike complained the theater would have an adverse impact on traffic, noise and quality of life, doubling down on concerns voiced at a community meeting last week.

Many of the speakers say they chose the area for its light traffic and peaceful environment.

"I feel like I live in a treehouse," Cowell said. "I'm just disappointed they didn't do what I would consider due diligence for the impact on the area."

However, people living south of the turnpike are generally supportive of the Warren project, even if it feels like a reversal of their values.

"Initially, it was just scary as could be," said Lance Cook, whose family has lived directly across the street from the site for 35 years. "I did not think that that could be a good thing. But Bill Warren came and actually met with us and talked to us about his vision and what his movie theaters are and talked about how he wanted to be a part of the community and to have a nice area."

Eventually, after conversations with developers, Cook and his family came around.

It helps that the developers will be maintaining more than 30 acres of trees and natural landscape. Planners also made concessions to neighbors, making it clear there will be no bars, liquor stores or casinos installed.

"You realize well, sadly, it's not going to be cows and horses on that property anymore," Cook said. "There's going to be something else. I decided that this would be okay and we could live with it in our area and hopefully it will make our area better."

Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer echoed those thoughts before voting the rezoning case through. Economic development is inevitable, she said, and she would rather have the Warren there than an unknown.

Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid cast the only vote against the rezoning, asking the city to wait until a traffic study had been completed. Some complained they were "blindsided" by the plan.

Attorney David Box said a continuance was worthless, since opponents were not willing to find a middle ground with developers.

Still, those against the project questioned whether a theater was the smartest move for the area.

"I have four theaters that are going to be within a three-mile area here," Cowell said. "I have to go 4-5 miles to get to a grocery store. If they would put something in there that would be more complementary to the landscape and needed we wouldn't be so opposed to it."

Final plans must be submitted to the City Planning Commission for approval but do not need the council's blessing.

Opponents are considering a lawsuit to block the theater's construction.

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