Bixby in Heart of South County Development

Contributing Editor

WELCOME HOME: John Woolman is one of five developers behind the concept of South County, a combination of new houses in Bixby, Jenks, Sapulpa and Glenpool. The South County designation allows them to be marketed as one entity.

DAVID JONES for GTR Newspapers

It is descriptive!
It is directional!
More important, it is designed to be an icon that bring buyers to its banner and with those buyers a transformation of cow pastures into vibrant suburban neighborhoods.
It is called South County.

The genesis of the idea came from a group of Tulsa-area developers: John Woolman, Vern Suess, Mike Wallace, J.D. Harp and Greg Simmons. Woolman, president of the McGraw Company, details a problem common to people in his business; a number of builders working with the properties he was developing, each of whom had a modest, easily exhausted advertising budget.

Each was working in several sub-divisions. The question was, how could you bring them together so that the combined economic investment might would be greater than the sum of the individual efforts?

The development group turned the question over to the brand development firm Littlefield Inc of Tulsa. Results from their research led them to recall St. Louis, Mo., where several suburban towns and cities were combined under one identity. Might not what worked in St. Louis also work in Tulsa?

South County was born.

The name says it all. Jenks, Bixby, Glenpool and portions of Sapulpa are being branded under the new name and the builders are selling under the South County banner.

They are offering an ambitious mix. Houses range in price from roughly $150,000 to over a million dollars and, Woolman says, they are selling very well.

“South County right now is about where south Tulsa was in the mid-1980s. People who come to this area love it because they feel they’re a part of the country, but they are also only minutes from downtown Tulsa.

“One thing you will notice is that there are a lot of shared amenities in these subdivisions.

Depending on which one you are in you might have access to a community swimming pool, a playground, jogging trails and even ponds for fishing.

“In a way this is a variation on the way midtown Tulsa developed. When Tulsa was young you didn’t have a neighborhood playground but there were parks everywhere giving greenery and places to play for the kids. The new neighborhoods don’t have the formal parks, but they do have places for the residents to enjoy themselves.”

Although South County extends as far east as Memorial Drive, a significant portion of it is west of the Arkansas River, an area traditionally underserved commercially. That is changing rapidly.

The walls are springing up for the Tulsa Hills project at 71st Street and Highway 75. The River Project is planning on bringing a gigantic shopping area and perhaps even a baseball park to the Jenks area bordering the Arkansas River and just south of the Creek Nation Turnpike.

A 17-acre shopping center called South County Square is going in at 121st. Street and Peoria Avenue. South County will not lack for amenities.

The first of the new “green’ Wal-Mart stores will anchor another huge development called the Shoppes at South County at 121st St. and Highway 75 that will bring tax dollars to fill Glenpool’s coffers.

The location of the Wal-Mart is a perfect example of how the real estate game has changed over the years. When the Wal-Mart search team came in looking for a location they were interested in looking elsewhere, because there simply didn’t seem to be enough houses as seen from the road to sustain a large store.

So the realtor showing them around hired a helicopter and showed them the 121st Street and Highway 75 site. From the air they could see the area was covered with rooftops that couldn’t easily be seen from the highway. The Wal-Mart team asked that the helicopter be landed and signed on the spot. It was a coup for South County.

All of this activity isn’t going to completely fill up the area with housing. As Woolman notes, a lot of open territory cannot be developed because it is in a flood plain.

Still, there is plenty of vacant land ready to be transformed into vibrant communities.

South County isn’t just the description of the southern half of Tulsa County any more. It’s a destination!

Updated 03-27-2008

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