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Rap artist announces plans to open restaurant in northeast Oklahoma City

OKLAHOMA CITY - More than three years ago, the Oklahoma City Council approved a plan to revitalize a large area of northeast Oklahoma City.

Now, we're getting a glimpse into a multi-million dollar project with the help of a rap artist.

Jabee Williams, a rapper from northeast Oklahoma City, has traveled the country for concerts and is now bringing a unique taste to the northeast side of the city.

"The best way for me to describe it is if you took your favorite sushi roll and put it into a bowl. That would be a poke bowl,” said Williams, owner of the upcoming East Side Poke Project.

After eating at a West Coast poke-themed restaurant, Williams decided to team up with a Los Angeles-based restaurant owner to bring the East Side Poke Project to northeast Oklahoma City.

"I was like I've got to have this in Oklahoma, and he was like 'Let's do it,’” Williams said.

Williams' business is the first of seven that will open at a new redevelopment project, located at N.E. 23rd St. near Martin Luther King Ave.

"Had it been somewhere else in Oklahoma City, I wouldn't have cared," he said. "But, it was important to me that it's from here, so that's my motivation."

Jonathan Dodson co-owns the building with his partners at Pivot Project. He said it will have around 80 percent minority-owned tenants, who will also have part ownership in the building.

"What we've seen in areas that have been gentrified is a lot of time the artist or creator gets pushed out, and so we wanted them to be able to be part of the value they create,” Dodson said.

Pivot Project is also redeveloping the 19,000-square-foot building next door, which will become the Oklahoma City Clinic in April - one of the first medical facilities in the area.

Together, the projects cost $10 million in private and public money, including $2.5 million in tax incentives using TIF.

It is all part of a larger effort by the city to fund new developments on the city's northeast side.

"Right now, we're ranked I want to say in the top 10 of the fastest growing cities in the United State," said president and CEO of the Oklahoma City Black Chamber of Commerce Eran Harrill. "In the past 10 years, we've grown about 30 percent. Northeast Oklahoma City has declined 12.9 percent in that same time frame."

Business leaders hope that will change soon, though. They hope streets like N.E. 23rd and 36th will see economic growth through businesses that attract nearby residents.

Jabee’s East Side Poke Project is scheduled to open in April of 2019.