Developers plan to revamp old Laura Dester site

TULSA, Okla. -- Some midtown citizens are fearful of not only what they call a blighted property, but a vagrant hot spot.

Formerly the Boys Home and Laura Dester site, what once housed children is now abandoned and causing quite the controversy. However, thanks to a recent proposal to develop the area in the Pearl District, negotiations are underway to construct a new multi-family housing facility in the buildings that remain.

"It's a blight on this area, I can tell ya,” Richard Sample, a concerned citizen in the area said.

Once a place for children, the Tulsa Boys Home and Laura Dester site now sits vacant.

"It's a good spot,” Sample said. “It's a nice piece of property in the city of Tulsa. It's a shame it's not being used for something productive for this community."

Its windows are broken and some covered in boards. The doors are supposed to be bolted shut but do not deter unwanted guests.

"That's not a benefit to this community right now, it's a detriment,” Sample said.

Residents in the area said vagrants inhabit the old buildings, littering the neighborhood with trash, drug paraphernalia, and human waste.

“I’ve seen them,“ Sample said. “They approach me in the community over here and I tell ya, I’m a little bit leery of them."

The problem isn't new to the Tulsa Development Authority, which purchased to property from the City of Tulsa.

"This is an issue that is happening in all of Tulsa and the country as a whole,” O.C. Walker II, Executive Director for the TDA said.

Officials said the site is something they're working on, in hopes to revamp the Pearl District.

"In essence, they want to take those existing buildings and make multi-family housing units out of those overall buildings,” Walker II said.

 Pearl Place redevelopers are already on board to transform the property into 65 loft apartments and the TDA agreed this month to enter negotiations.

"TDA is currently in the process of working on a sector plan for the overall neighborhood and with that sector plan we plan to really look at and study ways to actually increase growth patterns over in that area, in addition to floodplain mitigation,” Walker II said.

Although the project is good news for those nearby, they're hoping an increase in security will keep the site safe until the project gets going.

"The TDA is working in conjunction with fire inspectors, the City of Tulsa inspector, the City of Tulsa's security department and the Tulsa Police Department.”

TDA officials said they'll be surveying the site daily, boarding up the broken windows and sending vagrants away.

Negotiations for the property could take a couple months, but developers said they're hoping to move forward soon.

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