Date: April 26 – May 1, 2015
Location: Norman, Oklahoma
Sponsor: City of Norman and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
Subject Area: Downtown Revitalization
Glenda E. Hood, Founding Partner
triSect LLC, Orlando, Florida
For the panel report, please visit ULI’s Knowledge Finder
Background and Panel Assignment
The panel was asked to examine a study area in Ward 4 of the city of Norman, land owned and operated by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS). Specifically, the study area includes a parcel north of East Main Street, approximately 160 acres, and a parcel south of East Main Street, approximately 80 acres. Originally developed when the property was at the eastern edge of the city of Norman, the land was first a school site, but changed to a private mental health hospital in 1894. At its peak, the self-sufficient campus encompassed over a thousand acres and included dozens of buildings, its own power plant, and a working farm with a dairy and cannery that provided food for both patients and staff. In many cases, patients undergoing long-term treatment at Griffin Memorial Hospital held jobs on the campus as part of their treatment. The hospital was a major Norman employer through the 1970s.
The study area was open and rural when mental health services were first provided, and even today remains sparsely developed. Abutting the study area to the north is a heavily used recreation area, Griffin Community Park, containing soccer and baseball fields. Starting in the 1960s, changing treatment practices and shifting political priorities began to shrink Griffin’s health care offerings and reduce staffing levels. Many campus buildings fell into disuse and were demolished.
The Griffin Memorial Hospital land, along with other land held by or for the benefit of ODMHSAS, was placed in a real property trust in 2005. The trust provided that the property within it “may never be sold.” However, in 2014 the state passed and the governor signed a bill that allows the sale of the tract of land on which the ODMHSAS property (the study site) sits so long as “the proceeds are used exclusively for tangible infrastructure improvements that benefit the persons serviced by the Department.” To make recommendations for the future of the Griffin Memorial Hospital site, the panel met with an array of local citizens as varied as real estate developers, commercial brokers, local architects, bankers, area residents and business owners, and government and university officials. In addition, the panel reviewed demographic studies, a detailed retail assessment, an in-process housing study, and previous plans put forth for the site. The panel also engaged in site and area tours to reach the recommendations and design strategies put forth in this report.
Another important consideration to the recommendations made by the panel, and detailed throughout this report, is ULI’s Building Healthy Places Initiative, which emphasizes the links between human health and the natural and built environment, and particularly the role that the development industry can play in improving health outcomes. Foundational components of this effort are wrapped around built environment improvements to promote physical activity, provide access to healthy food and drinking water, and encourage healthy environments and social well-being. Insert information about specific questions panel was asked to address.
Summary of Recommendations
The panel recommendations include the following:
- Providing a long-term financial collaboration;
- Exploring new uses compatible with the ODMHSAS mission;
- Creating public/private mixed-use development opportunities;
- Maintaining focus on mental and physical health services;
- Seeking options for special populations, including both market and affordable housing;
- Developing a master plan with costs, impacts, and timelines;
- Restoring the Bishop Creek watershed for stormwater and recreational purposes, as well as addressing downstream flooding; and
- Attaining and enhancing recreational assets at the abutting Griffin Park, Frances Cate Park, and George M. Sutton Wilderness Park, as well as examining any new recreational opportunities.
These goals provide the foundation for recommendations from the panel in the following general categories:
- Public/private redevelopment of the Griffin site into a mixed-use community;
- Development strategies and a timeline for land sales; and
- Guidance and examples of process, structure, and financing options.
After much deliberation, the panel identified five overarching recommendations for the site:
- Relocate Griffin Memorial Hospital.
- Unlock the value of this property to meet both economic and other public benefit objectives.
- Create a campus for community services as an asset for Norman.
- Focus on health and well-being with new, related uses.
- Create a new urban center that provides connection and access to downtown through Main Street to parks and recreation spaces and to nearby neighborhoods.