Rent or buy? The Council discusses a possible agreement with Factory Obscura | New



A famous interactive art venue is set to continue negotiations with the town of Norman to secure a lease or purchase town-owned property, town officials said.

Norman City Council discussed at its Tuesday meeting whether it would be advantageous to offer a long-term lease to Factory Obscura or a purchase contract with the eventuality that the city is offered the property if the museum art was selling later.

Factory Obscura in an interactive art museum in Oklahoma City. It features temporary collectives and is made up of 30 artists who contribute to exhibitions, their website reads.

For months, the museum and the city discussed Factory Obscura’s intention to expand its Oklahoma City-based operations to Norman. During discussions at Tuesday night’s study session, city attorney Kathryn Walker said Factory Obscura had built up investors and was ready to move negotiations forward.

The proposed location of the city-owned office strip is at 118 N. Gray St., an area that will eventually become a two-way street and benefit from improvements, Walker said.

Ward 1 Brandi Studley raised concerns from former Councilor Kate Bierman that the city was not facilitating opportunities for local artists first and claimed there were “controversial things with Factory Obscura”.

Studley did not provide further details during the meeting and later told The Transcript that she was speaking with people who have expressed concerns about their experiences with Factory Obscura.

No court records were found on the state’s court network site indicating criminal charges or lawsuits.

City manager Darrel Pyle said he was unaware of any controversial concerns related to the museum and had received no interest in the space from other parties.

“We are happy to chase these [concerns] down, ”Pyle said. “This group contacted us. We did not go to solicit him. We have not received any further proposals from anyone, and this building has been there for years.

Ward 8 Matt Peacock said Factory Obscura demonstrates “a proven business model in which they have proven to get 900,000 [a year] through their space, and that’s [in] a space of 9,000 square feet.

“We’re talking about 35,000 square feet of space, so you can quickly do the math,” Peacock said.

Adult tickets cost $ 17, Walker said.

“The impact on our community is far greater than any of the current entities can provide, and this is not an indictment against these groups. It’s apples to oranges, I think, ”Peacock said.

Peacock also noted that the company pays its artists “full salary and health care benefits” and is committed to working with students at Norman public schools and the University of Oklahoma “to to be a breeding ground for internships and learning “.

The city purchased the building in 2011 for municipal use. The history of proposed uses included space for the municipal yard, storage, parking and space for planning services, Walker said.

Although she did not disclose the lease amount or the sale price, Walker confirmed that it would be a low price to encourage economic development. Since 2011, the city has chosen to renovate other existing buildings and invest in new construction to improve municipal complexes, The Transcript reported.

Some councilors, including Ward 7 Stephen Holman and Ward 4 Lee Hall, were in favor of a long-term lease or purchase agreement with the property being offered first if the buyer chooses. to sell it. Hall said she would probably prefer a long-term lease.

“While I like their confidence in a long term plan, we have established that this is top notch real estate in Norman, and we have yet to use it to the best and the best possible way.” , she said. “But I would really like to have the opportunity and the first opportunity to get it back to the city if, for some reason, they don’t stay.”

Pyle said if the city sold and bought him back, the improvements to the building would be significant.

“What we have today is very, very difficult,” he said. “Whether we make the investment or they make the investment – at the end of the day, we think the neighborhood is definitely increasing in value and taxpayers would benefit… five years, 10 years, 40 years later. . “

Peacock noted that if the city sold the building, it would put the property back on the tax rolls and the project would then contribute to the District of Center City Tax Increment Finance.

The Center City TIF is based solely on ad valorem taxes, distributing the burden among the recipients of ad valorem tax collections: Cleveland County, the Cleveland County Health Department, Norman Public Schools, Moore-Norman Technology Center, Pioneer Library System and the city .

“It’s in downtown TIF and doesn’t contribute anything to TIF,” Peacock said. “So if we sell the building, it’ll go from an appraised value of zero dollars to a $ 20 million project, potentially. Just something to think about.



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