City of Jenks remains confident outlet mall construction will be completed
Since the COVID-19 pandemic has had its grip on the world, many people in the Jenks area have questioned whether Simon Premium Outlets still plans to build the new outlet mall.
Tulsa Premium Outlets will be located in Jenks just south of the Creek Turnpike in the River District area next to the Arkansas River.
Simon Property Group, parent company of Simon Premium Outlets, has been working side-by-side with the City of Jenks since the summer of 2015 when Simon informed Jenks it wanted to put an outlet mall in its city limits.
Since that time, Jenks has been working on various economic development agreements, including a Tax Increment Finance District (TIF) and sales tax reimbursement for the Simon group. After the Jenks City Council and Simon Property approved all the agreements, Simon moved forward with the project. They purchased the land just south of the Creek Turnpike in July of 2019, began on-site work in December of 2019 and had a groundbreaking ceremony in February of 2020.
The structure to the new outlet mall was beginning to take shape, which brought with it a new level of excitement from Jenks citizens, but since late March, no work on the structure has taken place and with equipment being moved off the property, there was an increasing amount of concern from those same citizens.
Jenks City Manager Chris Shrout said even though it may not look like work is being done, that is not the case.
“Many people believe they stopped construction in late March due to the pandemic because there was no work being done on the structure itself, but they didn’t necessarily stop construction,” Shrout said. “They have been doing a lot of earth work over the past couple of months. We have had many questions from citizens about equipment leaving the site or equipment not being there, but they have continued to do quite a bit of earth work on site.”
Shrout said the city has been dealing with people having doubts about the project since it was announced, but the city is confident in its partner.
“Simon Property has delivered on everything they said they were going to do, and we have no reason to believe they aren’t going to deliver on everything they say they are going to do,” Shrout said. “People see huge machines dormant or leaving the property and they assume there has been some big shut down when in fact that is not the case.”
Shrout added that on massive complex projects such as this one, when certain situations happen, some things must be potentially adjusted.
“This project has around 800 construction jobs associated with it and that takes a lot of scheduling,” Shrout said. “When there is a blip in that schedule, you sometimes need to figure all that out again. We are all confident with this project moving forward. Any specific questions regarding construction or business operations, we refer to Simon.”
While the Simon group is working on the actual site, the City of Jenks is trying to do their part in preparing the areas around the outlet mall property. Monday, the Jenks City Council will vote on calling a bond election for Aug. 25. The general obligation bond was supposed to be voted on April 7, but due to COVID-19, it was postponed indefinitely.
A part of that bond issue will be the design of the extension of 106th Street from Elm Ave. to the east across Polecat Creek into the southern entrance of River District right by the mall property.
The City of Jenks has already provided the frontage road along the south portion of the Creek Turnpike from Elm Street to the River District and the road underneath the turnpike along the Arkansas River on the east side of the property.
Also, on the potential bond issue is the widening of Elm Street from 111th Street to 131st Street, which Shrout said will help alleviate pressure off any part of Elm Street, even down near the River District and outlet mall area.
Shrout said the City of Jenks could not have a better partner on this project than the Simon Property Group, who also owns Woodland Hills Mall in Tulsa, which just re-opened after being closed due to the Coronavirus epidemic.
Simon Property Group is the largest retail estate investment trust and largest mall operator in the nation.
“They have been diligent in their planning of this project,” Shrout said. “Despite what is going on with the economy or the COVID-19 issue, I have no concerns about them completing this project. We are in communication with the Simon corporate office on a regular basis and with the general contractor in charge of the project weekly or even daily at times.”
Simon Property Group announced in February they plan on opening the new outlet mall in the spring of 2021 and Shrout said he has not heard otherwise.
“They have been great partners for the City of Jenks,” Shrout said. “We look forward to continue working with them and look forward to the grand opening.”