Members of the FISTA Development Trust Authority already are making plans to expand, even as tenants still are moving into FISTA 1.
The authority received permission from the City Council last week to amend its 2023-2024 budget by $2.25 million, with almost $1 million of that sum associated with a buildout of space for Dynetics, already a tenant. The good news: $1 million of that total allocation from the 2019 Capital Improvements Program will be reimbursed, via a $1 million grant FISTA has received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Trust authority members already had signed off on a $4.95 million budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 before recently amending that total to $6.2 million to reflect some new work.
The largest component is $920,000, directed toward building out space to accommodate Dynetic’s CEMA (Cyber and Electromagnetic Activities) project and for Torch Technologies. FISTA Development Trust Authority Vice Chairman Mark Brace said the funding is for Phase 2 of FISTA 1 (FISTA 1 is the designation given to renovated space with the former Sears department store on Central Plaza’s west end). He said the work for the CEMA will be focused on the old auto bay area. Dynetics, already a tenant in FISTA 1, already holds the CEMA contract.
“A lot of what we have working is under drone technology,” Brace said, of efforts that already have brought employees into Lawton and FISTA 1, with discussion of doubling that number with the second phase of work.
Brace said the efforts fit under what FISTA supporters have been working toward for years, efforts that are accelerating as FISTA becomes operational with its first tenant space. He said local officials are patterning themselves on Huntsville, Alabama, which also started small.
“Huntsville is a model for what we hope to accomplish here,” he said. Trust authority members and others linked to them are continuing efforts to identify more federal and state funding that would allow them build out all available space in the 100,000-square-foot Sears complex, before moving to FISTA 2, the old Dillard’s space.
Brace said part of the trust authority’s projected work will be covered by the HUD grant. But that grant is a reimbursable one, meaning FISTA must spend money, then apply to be reimbursed. That’s part of the reason the trust authority needs $2.25 million from the city’s CIP.
“You have to have the cash in hand,” Brace said.
Funding also will be designated for work that couldn’t be completed in phase 1 and work FISTA didn’t know it needed. That includes $55,300 to cover internet and wi-fi wiring, electrical closet and server room upgrades, and a fire riser room, work postponed under the initial work contract. Another $17,000 is allocated to repairs of the Central Plaza parapet, an area of roofing between the former Sears and the rest of Central Plaza. Sears was originally built as a stand-along building before what was then Central Mall was added to its east. The roofing that protects that gapped area is deteriorating to the point that leaks are finding their way inside the new complex, Brace said.
And $24,700 is being allocated to buy furniture for FISTA offices and the welcome center, with another $24,000 to cover architectural work needed for the CEMA buildout.
There also is $209,000 shortfall in revenues to cover. Trust authority members said original projections for revenue to be generated by rent and leases are projected to be $209,000 less than originally estimated. Council members were concerned about that drop in what is now projected to be $2.186 million in revenues. Brace said there are some new tenants in the mall, with others expected to follow in coming years. Brace also said space available in FISTA 1 already is leased, with another six projected leases expected for the space provided by phase 2.
“We’re moving forward,” he said.