City to make offers on University Boulevard propertiesNegotiations to begin after council sets aside $1.15 million for acquisitions

An agent working for the City of Odessa will begin making offers in the coming weeks to make way for the University Boulevard widening project that’s expected to begin construction in late spring or early summer.
And city officials expect to spend less than half as much on the acquisitions than they did a year ago, following appraisals by a contractor this fall. The properties include eight buildings, including the Masonic Lodge at 3041 E. University Blvd., and 64 smaller pieces of land.
The city contractor handling the project, Kimley-Horn, attributes the savings to those slivers of land that in most cases are just a few feet of yard that the city would seek to acquire without hurting the values of the nearby homes, said Kerry Miller, an engineer with the firm.
The project will widen the thoroughfare to five lanes and straighten a curve near the YMCA with a goal of relieving bottlenecks and making the road safer by adding a turn lane.
The Odessa City Council last week authorized setting aside more than $1.15 million to fund all of the acquisitions. That amount is less than half the $2.6 million that contractor Kimley-Horn estimated as the cost of the acquisitions.
To calculate that estimate, the firm took assessments from the Ector County Appraisal District and multiplied them by 150 percent to approximate fair market value.
Kimley-Horn, working for a $322,000 fee, notified residents in September as the firm began surveying and appraising properties. The largest of the 64 parcels is less than 400 square feet, and Miller said negotiators will treat the negotiations as an approach to buy raw land.
“Those appraisals were just considering the land value, and we are not considering the value of the actual home,” Miller said. “That’s where the reduction comes from. Originally we were being very conservative.”
Miller said they will negotiate to buy the eight buildings first.
The masons who use the lodge, about 160, have already arranged for another meeting place should they need it: H.A. McFarland Lodge No. 1338 at Seventh Street and Dixie Boulevard, Master Mason Mike LaCroix said.
But LaCroix said they haven’t ruled out hiring their own appraiser as they await an offer from the city. He said they hope to reap enough money from a sale to move into a new lodge, possibly one they build.
“We really don’t know what we are going to have to work with,” LaCroix said. “We all have hopes and expectations of what they might offer us but we don’t know that as a reality yet. Our decision is really dependent upon the city. We are at the mercy of them right now.”
The residential properties city officials plan to acquire are at 2700 and 2701 Eastover Drive, 2700 and 2701 Windsor Drive, 2701 Century Ave., 2404 Nabors Lane and a multi-unit rental at 2408 Walnut Ave. Miller said their appraisals for those homes were in line with their initial estimates and include relocation costs for renters.
The City Council must approve any purchases over $50,000. The cost of the acquisitions could also increase after negotiations begin.
So far, no property owners have signaled to the city that they would refuse to sell. But negotiations haven’t begun, and city officials have not ruled out using eminent domain. Eminent domain could slow the acquisitions and delay the beginning of construction.
But if all goes as planned, roadwork on the thoroughfare could begin as soon as May, Traffic Operations Superintendent Hal Feldman said. Crews would widen University Boulevard in two phases, starting at the section between Andrews Highway and Maple Avenue before moving from Maple Avenue to Grandview Avenue.
Feldman said city officials may also try to bid the entire project at once in hopes of saving money. Construction would last about a year on each phase, but city officials plan to keep open one lane in each direction during the roadwork.
“At this time, I don’t think I can physically close University with the amount of traffic on there,” Feldman said.