WAGONER, Okla. — Development continues to flourish along U.S. 69, with quick-service restaurants rapidly becoming a dominant feature along the retail corridor on the city’s west side.
Construction of a new Taco Bueno is under way just north of Oklahoma 51. A super-sized Sonic Drive-In opened adjacent to the Taco Bueno location about a year ago.
Just months ago and a couple of blocks south McDonald’s razed an older structure and rebuilt after Burger King opened its doors for business. Renovations of Arby’s and Taco Bell also occurred during the past couple of years along the same corridor.
Mayor Albert Jones said the Taco Bueno project took root in September 2016 and is expected to be completed in March. Jones said Rickey Hayes of Retail Attractions, the city’s economic development consultant, also “is working with other national quick-service restaurants and a national grocer.”
While development has picked up the past couple of years along the U.S. 69 corridor, Jones said he has concerns about plans that include the highway’s bypass around Muskogee. Jones said he was “very concerned” about the proposal and plans to closely follow ongoing discussions.
“What happens in Muskogee is going to dictate what happens in Wagoner,” Jones said, acknowledging a sense of empathy for Mayor Bob Coburn and those in charge of economic development. “Just the discussion and possibility of rerouting around Muskogee has not only stifled potential future development in their community but, indeed, has killed it.”
Jones said Oklahoma municipalities, which heavily rely on sales tax revenue, “live or die along highway corridors.” He said private-sector investment can dry up when uncertainty exists due to the considerable amount of time it takes to get “a retailer interested in your city,” getting them to invest, and “then finally to the construction phase.”
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s “freight transportation plan is not in the ... eight-year construction plan for Wagoner, but three months ago it wasn’t in Muskogee’s plan either,” Jones said. “I watch with great concern and trepidation.”
Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901, @dsmootMPhx or firstname.lastname@example.org.