City Council members will gather for their first session of 2021 today, a special meeting originally conceived to handle dilapidated properties but expanded to make room for an item dealing with the purchase of Central Mall.

The meeting will begin at 2 p.m. in the auditorium of Lawton City Hall, Southwest 9th and C. It is open to the public, but seating is limited and those who attend must wear masks/facial coverings to enter city hall and must observe social distancing requirements.

The session will start with consideration of a 25-year lease agreement between the City of Lawton and the FISTA Development Trust Authority, an entity the council created last year to operate the FISTA (FIRES Innovation Science and Technology Accelerator) that will be located in vacant areas of Central Mall, beginning with the old Sears department store on the mall’s west side. While the city has that former storefront under lease, the council decided in October to buy the entire mall and use its vacant areas, starting with Sears and the former Dillard’s department store, to create a complex to house military defense contractors who work on Fort Sill and with the two U.S. Army Cross-Functional Teams housed there.

Mayor Pro Tem/Ward 4 Councilman Jay Burk, the council’s representative to the nine-member FISTA Development Trust Authority, is expected to sign the final sales contract with Kohan Retail Investment Group today, which will convey the almost 600,000-square-foot commercial property to the City of Lawton for $14.6 million. The 25-year lease with the development authority, which begins Jan. 5, sets the requirements for the trust authority to operate the complex, to include responsibility for all maintenance and upgrades, and operations (the trust authority already has hired a firm to handle the retail and common areas of the mall). The agreement also sets a $100 annual fee that the authority will pay the City of Lawton, and has a 25-year extension possible.

City officials have said the trust authority and its executive director, James Taylor, will operate the FISTA. Burk said renovations for the old Sears site, to make it suitable for occupancy, will begin immediately because one contractor already has employees ready to move into the FISTA. A number of other entities also have indicated an interest; at last count, almost 15 entities has signed Letters of Interest.

Council members also are trying a new concept for what city officials call “D&D”, or dilapidated structures that will be slated for demolition unless their owners clean them up to abate the nuisance. Rather than doing a few properties at a time during regular council meetings, the group will schedule special meetings through the year to handle a large number at one time.

Today’s agenda includes 41 properties: 2610 NW 24th, 2604 SW 14th, 1302 NW 53rd, 407 SW 17th, 1310 NW Lincoln, 1007 SW I, 4324 NW Lincoln, 40 NW 24th, 2515 SW A, 4313 NW Floyd, 1468 NW 40th, 818 NE Carver, 911 SW 29th, 2814 SW G, 2703 SW G, 2748 SW I, 2705 SW G, 913 SW 29th, 1711 SW B, 1908 SW B, 1904 SW B, 216 SW 24th, 1712 SW A, 908 SW D, 910 SW D, 914 SW D, 916 SW D, 410 SW 10th, 3118 NE Shelter Creek Drive, 3425 Cache Road, 2404 SW A, 2410 SW A, 1614 SW C, 1405 SW Summit, 1317/1319 NW Taft, 807 SW 4th, 1208 SW H, 1416 NW Park, 101 NE English, 914 SW 8th and 505 SW Summit.

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