Health Center Foundation to manage Innovation District

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Health Center Foundation is getting a new life as it takes on managing the Innovation District.

“We’re going to reinvent ourselves,” said Terry Taylor, president of the foundation. “We’re going to restructure ourselves. That means a new organization.”

The call for a leading entity came in a nonprofit research group’s study of the Innovation District, which stretches south from NW 13th Street to Fourth Street, southeast to the railroad tracks, east to Lottie Avenue, and west to Robinson Avenue.

But there’s not an ideal group to manage the district, not even the foundation, according to the study. The authors wrote that while the foundation coordinates its members and oversees the campus master plan, it doesn’t have the structure, powers, or comprehensive geographic focus to coordinate cross connections within the district.

Taylor said the foundation has a lot in the works, including considering whether an executive director is needed.

“We’re branching out,” he said. “We’ve been looking at staffing as the months come on. We’ll determine what we need to do.”

The foundation has about a $3 million annual budget, though $1 million is designated for projects specifically in the health center. Taylor said trying to get more money will be one key factor in the restructuring. The study suggested more events that allow district employees to commingle, and there are grants available for those activities. Taylor said the foundation is studying how it can take advantage of that money.

As the foundation looks at its new role, the state is considering its part in helping draw more development to the Innovation District.

The Office of Management and Enterprise Services oversees the development within the State Capitol Complex and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. The district runs from NE 30th Street to NE Eighth Street.

OMES Planning Director Ben Davis said the state is working on changing its conditional uses in the area, allowing more flexibility with development.

Davis said he helped prompt the rule changes after he learned there are not many permissible uses in the Health Sciences Center’s zoning.

The existing rules allow for nine uses permitted by right, including clinic, extended care facility, health-care residential, helicopter pad, hospital, hotel, research lab, and a public health facility. There are also five conditional uses: bank or credit union; barber shop, spa or salon; child care; copy center; and conference center.

If the rules are changed, new developments could include office, residential, institutional, and retail use not tied to the health center. New development proposals in the area must be approved by the Capitol-Medical Center Improvement and Zoning Commission.

Davis said there is vacant land available for new structures, but some areas are surface parking lots. A majority of vacant land is outside the Capitol-Medical Center Improvement District, he said. It’s 950 acres total and overlaps the Innovation District’s 832 acres.

“I think the new rules will make it a lot easier for mixed development to happen,” he said.

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