Kendall Whittier Main Street

Kendall-Whittier West Park Project Underway

George Kaiser Family Foundation Executive Director Ken Levit talks about the start of construction for the Kendall-Whittier West Park project on Tuesday. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World

George Kaiser Family Foundation Executive Director Ken Levit talks about the start of construction for the Kendall-Whittier West Park project on Tuesday. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World

By MIKE AVERILL World Staff Writer
Published: 8/8/2012  2:24 AM
Last Modified: 8/8/2012  8:02 AM

Construction is under way on the Kendall-Whittier West Park project, part of a $36 million investment into the neighborhood.

The project includes 128 mixed-income housing units, 20 student housing units and 7,000 square feet of retail and management space as well as the renovation of the existing neighborhood park.

The project is funded by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the University of Tulsa, the City of Tulsa, state low-income tax credits and outside financing secured by McCormack Baron Salazar, a national developer that specializes in revitalizing economically distressed urban areas.

The city’s portion was $5.9 million for stormwater, water and sanitary infrastructure improvements.

Ken Levit, executive director of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, said the neighborhood is a vital part of Tulsa.

“In the ’60s ’70s and ’80s, it fell on difficult times. In the last several years, the community and its neighbors have worked block by block, house by house, to build it into a stronger neighborhood,” he said. “This is decades of planning and working together to improve, revitalize and strengthen the community.”

Levit said the project will provide affordable housing in a neighborhood with an Educare center, an elementary school and university that together create “a pipeline from birth to college to career.”

“One of the significant challenges we’ve identified in the area is a lack of safe, affordable, quality housing. The objective of the West Park master plan is to achieve this goal and continue to support the neighborhood revitalization in the Kendall-Whittier area,” he said.

Mayor Dewey Bartlett said West Park is an example of the city’s investment in urban development following the guidelines of PlaniTulsa.

“We as a city saw this area several years ago ripe for decay,” Bartlett said.

He said normally the area would most likely be taken over by the city and bulldozed and made into a park.

“It would become an island surrounded by bad things,” he said, adding that this approach creates a “life ring” for the neighborhood.

“This is an example I hope to see replicated throughout the city time after time after time,” he said.

Construction is going on between Lewis and Atlanta avenues across the street from Kendall-Whittier Park, 2645 E. Fifth Street.

The project includes 20 graduate-student apartments, a fitness room and a community hall.

“This is an enormously useful addition for TU,” said TU President Geoffrey Orsak. “This is a truly remarkable urban renewal project.”

The university will also handle park maintenance when the project is complete. The project is expected to be complete in late summer of 2013.