East Edmond development challenges
As Edmond continues to expand east beyond I-35, the neighborhoods are booming, but there has been a lack of commercial real estate interest and development. Ward 2 City Councilman Josh Moore and Randy Entz, director of planning and zoning at the City of Edmond, are working together to educate the community on the challenges and efforts involved in increasing business in east Edmond.
Evolution of real estate
According to the city’s East Edmond 2050 plan, approximately 18,000 people live around or east of the I-35 corridor, an area anticipated to grow between 80 and 140% by 2050 based on recent trends. The majority of development in the area has been single-family residential, resulting in a 57% increase in residential units.
“The evolution of real estate development is that commercial follows rooftops. It’s early,” said Moore. “It takes a specific type of developer to implement a mixed-use development and be successful. That developer hasn’t broken ground on a project in the area yet.”
Currently, about 80% of the land is undeveloped or rural residential. There are very few civic facilities, and utilities have only been installed in a small portion of the nearly 50 square mile area.
“Current growth patterns show a tremendous amount of residential development happening east of I-35 due to the extension of utilities in the area. Those new rooftops will eventually attract commercial services to the area,” said Entz. “Having those uses, particularly if they are done in a thoughtful manner, will provide convenience for residents, reduce traffic, and increase the quality of life—not to mention supporting the tax base needed to provide City services to that area.”
With all eyes on east Edmond, the city and council have been highly involved in the initial planning phases and zoning discussions. All parties have pressed the importance of having a vision and community support as development continues.
“There are several large tracts that have the potential to provide quality commercial and mixed-use developments east of I-35,” said Entz. “Recent updates to the City’s comprehensive plan, The Edmond Plan 2018, point to those areas and describe the city’s vision for development.”
Generally, as residential housing grows, commercial development quickly follows. But that doesn’t seem to be the case in east Edmond.
“Edmond has a reputation for being difficult to get commercial projects approved. Our NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) rating is high, and our engineering department takes an unreasonable amount of time to review construction plans,” said Moore. “This reputation spreads around the country. Larger developers aren’t interested in Edmond right now.”
Civil leaders are actively working to repair the reputation with both internal changes and external conversations to increase business investment in the area.
“The City continues to improve processes to facilitate development while balancing the desires of the community,” said Entz. “Recent updates to the Plan should also help facilitate development in those areas designated as appropriate for commercial and other uses.”
The Edmond Plan 2018 specifically lists the goal: “I-35 will be a vibrant commercial corridor that attracts visitors and employers from across the region, acting as both a gateway to Edmond and a feature that binds our community’s fabric.” The Plan also lists the potential zoning categories for the east Edmond area, prioritizing recommendations based on their appropriateness to the area using a stoplight designation system.
“The City is also underway with an update to its development-related ordinances that will facilitate achieving the vision described in the Edmond Plan, streamline processes where possible, and guide developers in the planning and design of projects making approvals easier,” said Entz.
Because of the lack of nonresidential development and services, the existing neighborhoods are a significantly further distance from schools, shopping, and daily services, requiring people to drive further distances across Edmond to access existing commercial and retail spaces.
“As east Edmond continues to develop, we will need more projects that bring a mix of housing options and commercial services to the area,” said Moore. “It’s simply not sustainable for everyone to drive to the same places in town to get what they need.”
In 2021, Edmond’s top four trafficked intersections saw a combined average of 225,000 cars daily. These areas require near-constant long-term projects to keep up with increased usage.
“We need better connectivity between residential and commercial moving forward, so we’re not repeating the same things that have caused a lot of the traffic congestion that we’re dealing with today,” said Moore. “This might mean that neighborhoods will look different than what we’re currently used to in east Edmond.”
Started in 2020 and officially adopted by the city council in 2022, the East Edmond 2050 Plan was requested and championed by the city as the initial information gathering method to get citizen feedback on changes and desired growth in the expanding area. The goal of the study was to identify the costs and impacts of different development patterns and provide community leaders with data to make informed decisions about future development.
The plan included surveys from 1,446 residents and contributions from around 75 city leaders and consultants.
Beyond the study, citizens still have a voice to share their concerns, questions, and hopes for east Edmond. Entz recommends business owners and residents in Edmond participate in local efforts to increase development opportunities and voice their opinions.
“Serve on boards and commissions, take surveys the City puts out, attend meetings to show support for items, etc.,” said Entz. “The code update is just getting underway as we are currently reviewing proposals for consultants, but related to the code update, there will be opportunities along the way for the public to have input. As those arise, please take the time to provide feedback so that a cross-section of the community is heard.”
Between commission meetings, city council meetings, and community surveys, the city hopes citizens continue to be involved in the process of growing east Edmond.
“We’d invite anyone that’s interested to join the conversation with us and help learn how new development can be the best that it can be for the future of Edmond,” said Moore.
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About Ashley Neese
Ashley Neese currently serves as editor of Edmond Business and a freelancer specializing in overall communication strategy. She previously served as the communications and marketing manager at the Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce, where she promoted chamber events, helped members gain exposure, and spearheaded the Edmond Young Professionals organization, as well as the Chamber’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.
An Edmond native, Ashley graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma in 2017 with a degree in Strategic Communications. In her free time, she enjoys brewing coffee and finding the best local eats.