Buy For Less grocery store
The sign for an existing Buy For Less grocery store is seen in late July at King’s Crossing, located at the northeast corner of Northeast 23rd Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard. (William W. Savage III)

Oklahoma City Councilman John Pettis aired the dirty laundry of Buy For Less developers in a weekend Facebook post that said the company now seeks to build a smaller grocery store than previously proposed.

Pettis said building a “Smart Saver” grocery store “is not acceptable in my view.”

Here is the latest on the King’s Crossing Development (NE 23rd and MLK)(Uptown Grocery Store):

The developer recently informed the city that the developer would not be building the Uptown Grocery Store. The Uptown Grocery Store was going to be a full size grocery store. The Developer now wants to build a smaller grocery store called Smart Saver.

The Smart Saver Grocery Store is not what was promised to the community by the developer. The Smart Saver’s name and size of the store is not acceptable in my view.

It’s time for the developer to be honest about their true plans. I don’t support their latest plans. We deserve better than what is now being planned by the developer.

Aug. 2, NonDoc published a story concerning the King’s Crossing development, but Buy For Less property division head Susan Binkowski did not return multiple calls and emails seeking clarification on the plan.

Pettis returned a phone call Monday and offered firm criticism.

I’m tired of dealing with King’s Crossing,” Pettis said. “I do believe the developer hasn’t been honest with me, with the community I represent, and, you know, it’s time for us to part ways. Anybody who sits there and says, ‘Hey, we’re going to do X, Y and Z,’ and then they don’t deliver? That’s wrong.”

Buy For Less operates an existing store at Northeast 23rd Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard in northeast Oklahoma City and had proposed a large, expanded store and development for the intersection. That proposal received city approval with the promise of public funding to support it.

Now, Pettis says the developer faces a deadline of Thursday to choose between two new options offered by the city and its Alliance for Economic Development.

Pettis summarized on Facebook:

The City of Oklahoma City gave the developer two options-

1st Option
The Kings Crossing Development had a financial gap of $9 Million Dollars. The City of Oklahoma City proposed $5.5 Million Dollars in NE TIF Funds and $3.5 Million in Section 108 Loan Funds for this development. In total, the City proposed $9 Million Dollars to the developer. This option does require accountability and requires the developer to put up collateral to receive the city’s assistance.
The City’s proposal is for a full size grocery store.

2nd Option
The City of Oklahoma City proposed to purchase all 22 acres of the King’s Crossing Development. This option would allow the city to find a developer for site who could deliver a full size grocery store and retail that would be acceptable to the community in a timely manner.

The City of Oklahoma City gave the developer a deadline of September 29, 2016 to accept one of the options.

Now, where do we go from here?

The City of Oklahoma City and I are fully committed to bringing a full size grocery store to NE OKC. We will continue to work to find the right store for NE OKC that will value the people who live here. Just like the City of Oklahoma City owns Bass Pro in Bricktown and the Skirvin Hotel in Downtown, we just might need to own a full size grocery store in NE OKC. NE OKC deserves the best.

Pettis emphasized much of the same to NonDoc, noting that Sept. 29 will mark three years since the project’s initial announcement.

They say, ‘We’re going to do it, we’re going to do it,’ and we haven’t seen anything,” Pettis said.

“People in northeast Oklahoma City, they don’t want a lesser-than grocery store, and I’m with the people of northeast Oklahoma City. We deserve a quality grocery store.”

Pettis said he spoke with the municipal attorney before airing his grievances about the project on Facebook in response to community frustration with the developer. He also said people are not likely to be happy with the new Smart Saver branding.

“They are switching that brand to a Smart Saver,” Pettis said. “When you promise the community you’re going to build an Uptown Grocery and the next thing they see you’re building a Smart Saver, to me that is a slap in the face.”

Buy For Less grocery store
An existing Buy For Less grocery store is seen in late July at King’s Crossing, located at the northeast corner of Northeast 23rd Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard. (William W. Savage III)

‘The Alliance did their job’

Pettis emphasized to NonDoc that the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City has been supportive of developing that intersection in a positive way.

“The Alliance for Economic Development and I have worked very hard to get the King’s Crossing Development going,” Pettis said. “The Alliance’s staff has put in hundreds of hours trying to work with the developer. The Alliance did their job.”

Cathy O’Connor, president of the Alliance, said the process of moving forward will still take some time to shake out.

“Our position is that we want development to happen at that corner,” O’Connor said Tuesday. “We think it’s a very important location for northeast Oklahoma City, and whether it’s the Binkowskis or somebody else, we want development to happen.”

She explained how Friday’s decision deadline came about.

“A couple weeks ago, I sent a letter to Susan (Binkowski) saying that in our last discussions we had offered her $5 million in TIF (funding) and $3.5 million in Section 108 funds to do the first phase of King’s Crossing,” O’Connor said. “And that if that wasn’t going to be an acceptable way for her to move forward, then she needed to let me know so that we could possibly begin discussions about the city (or the Alliance) buying the property from her.”

The development drama comes during a bad news week for the Binkowskis and Buy For Less in general, as the company announced Monday that it would be closing two OKC stores — 2500 N. Pennsylvania Ave. and 2121 W. Hefner Road — and rebranding some others as Smart Savers.

That includes the current store on NE 23rd Street, Pettis said.

Calls to Buy For Less for comment were not returned, and the voice mailbox of the company’s communications person was noted as “full” by a robotic voice.