An addition to the tax code from 2017 could have implications on development in Ardmore, that is, if investors seize the opportunity.
Certain parts of the state are now considered “opportunity zones” by the federal government, and while many are located in larger, more populated parts of Oklahoma, Carter County is home to one. According to IRS.gov, a federal opportunity zone is an “economically distressed community where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment.” The zones were created in December 2017 as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Community Development Director Jessica Scott said no one has shown interest in the area that occupies much of southeastern Ardmore, so far.
“It is an area where we’ve not had a lot of growth,” Scott said. “We haven’t had a lot of commercial growth and residential growth is minimal (in that area). So, if it helps us I think it’s a good thing for us.”
The area outlined is east of North Washington Street, bordered by Sam Noble Parkway, Mary Niblack Road and McClain Road. Investors and developers would get tax credits for developing the area. Scott said development is more complicated when an area lacks the necessary infrastructure to support new construction, something the tax credits could offset for a potential new business.
“It happens to be in Ardmore,” Scott said. “You had to have census information for the last five years, and in Ardmore we have those statistics. I think that’s how it came about.”
Scott said the center of the zone is primarily residential, but the surrounding areas, particularly down Sam Noble Drive and Lake Murray Drive, could be turned into commercial zones.
“There’s room for development there,” Scott said.
The neighborhoods in that area were mostly built between the 20s and 50s, with small lots, narrow streets and older water and sewer lines. The railroad, initially the heart of the city, no longer functions as such.
“I don’t think when they built that they planned for large commercial development,” she said. “It’s so dense with homes.”
Larger cities have reported concerns about large-scale residential developments causing to exacerbating gentrification. However, in Ardmore housing is somewhat scarce to begin with. The zones must match a strict criteria, and certain kinds of businesses, like gambling establishments and liquor stores, are ineligible.
“For Ardmore, another large-scale residential development in those neighborhoods would be great,” Scott said. “But commercial would be so much better. Even people who live in Dickson and travel, they have one Dollar General. Just one store would be amazing.”
In the last five years, the only new construction in that area is Tim’s Corner Grocery and the Dollar General on Lake Murray Drive. Scott said the Dollar General is technically outside of the opportunity zone.
Scott said while Ardmore is experiencing a lot of commercial development currently, most of the growth is near Interstate 35, well to the west of the zone.
“Since Ardmore services so many communities, we’re the hub for a lot of surrounding communities to come shop and eat,” Scott said. “They’re coming up the Interstate. It makes sense that the growth is where the traffic is.”
Some parts of the zone have water and sewer lines already, but not all of the outlying areas do, which would make development more expensive.
“I understand how it’s supposed to work,” Scott said. “I hope it works that way.”