Williams today announced a pledge of up to $16 million for the development of “A Gathering Place for Tulsa,” becoming the lead corporate donor for the project.
A Gathering Place, a $400 million investment project led by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, will redevelop an area along the Arkansas River and River Parks into a large central park for the city.
“We are committing funds to the Gathering Place because it is a smart investment for Tulsa,” said Alan Armstrong, president and CEO of Williams. “For companies like Williams to grow and prosper, we need the very best talent. To attract the talent, we need a high quality of life.
“Our community is in constant competition with other cities across the country,” he added. “This is the type of community asset – along with the BOK Center, ONEOK Field and a revitalized arts district – that will make Tulsa a top contender in attracting and retaining the very best talent.”
Beginning in June 2014, the Williams Foundation will contribute $4.8 million over the next three years. If certain milestones are met, it will contribute $11.2 million over the next seven years. The donation will include naming rights for The Lodge, and one additional attraction still under negotiation.
“This is another transformative moment for Tulsa,” said Armstrong. “Williams recognizes that A Gathering Place will be a significant and highly visible community asset that will improve the quality of life here and make us an even more vibrant community.”
“Our foundation is dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty through investments in a number of areas, including civic enhancement,” said Ken Levit, executive director of George Kaiser Family Foundation. “This park is an opportunity to take Tulsa to the next level - improve our quality of life, strengthen our civic ties, and retain and attract the best talent. We are grateful to Williams for supporting what will be Tulsa’s most distinct civic enhancement and serve as the anchor of our growing and vibrant community.”
GKFF purchased the land on which A Gathering Place will be built and has committed to providing $125 million of the cost of the first phase. Private sources are being sought to fund the rest of this phase.
Features of A Gathering Place will include an adventure playground, a lodge, a pond, gardens and two large lawns for play and relaxation.
“I had the opportunity to speak with John Williams about A Gathering Place before his passing,” Armstrong added. “He was enthusiastic about the scale and beauty of it. He believed, as I do, that this is exactly the type of legacy Tulsa deserves.”
John Williams was a key leader in the redevelopment of downtown Tulsa in the 1970s. His work included the construction of the iconic Bank of Oklahoma Tower as well as the Williams Center Forum, now known as the Williams Resource Center. He also helped establish Tulsa's downtown Performing Arts Center, where a theater is named for him.