OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The state's Big 12 college towns are on track to have record commercial development years, according to their building permit activity.
The Journal Record reports that Stillwater had a slowdown in commercial construction from 2012 to 2014. After having $55 million in projects, the city's activity dropped to $34 million in 2014. In 2015, project valuation more than doubled when $84 million in commercial projects were built. This year, the city is only $6 million away from passing last year's total project valuation.
But Norman activity declined in 2015, dropping from $88 million in work to $78.8 million last year. This year, the city has already seen more spent on commercial activity than it did during all of 2015.
"We are seeing a lot of development in the student housing area," said Melissa Reames, Stillwater's chief financial officer. "We've had several big apartment complexes that are going to meet the need that today's students are looking for in commercial housing."
Other big projects include The Ranch retirement community, a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, three hotels, an expansion at the Stillwater Medical Center, and several new buildings at the Oklahoma State University campus.
In 2015, Stillwater had 100 commercial projects. By comparison, Norman had 213 commercial projects in 2015, which was a drop from the previous year's 284 projects.
City of Norman Retail Marketing Coordinator Sarah Kaplan said there's been a lot of growth in the University North Park center, with Torchy's Tacos opening during the summer. Last month, Norman's own Hal Smith Restaurant Group opened Redrock Canyon Grill in the center.
"We could use more retail on the east side of town," Kaplan said. "We don't have a ton of vacant (land) space, but there are needs. We're seeing a lot of stuff happening on the southeast side of town. The Cedar Lane area is one of the fastest-growing tracts in the metro. But there are no services or retail down there."
Both cities are in need of grocery stores, which some may find surprising in Norman, where there are five stores with groceries that are part of the Wal-Mart corporation in addition to other grocers. Stillwater Marketing Director Sherry Fletcher said the city could use another grocery store on the city's southwest side. A Sprouts Farmers Market is moving into the former Consumers IGA grocery store.
"Grocery might be a gap across the spectrum in Oklahoma," Kaplan said.
The cities are also trying to fill in their old downtowns. In Stillwater, the city hosts a monthly food truck event, helping to generate activity in the area. In Norman, the arts council hosts a monthly art walk. Kaplan said lately she's been working with Lindsey Street businesses, helping them to create an event to attract customers during the road construction period.
Information from: The Journal Record, http://www.journalrecord.com