The federal contracting arm of the Cherokee Nation is working with the U.S. government on a proposal to open a facility just north of Tulsa that would provide temporary housing and placement services to unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in the United States.
The 873,896-square-foot complex would be made up of five existing buildings at Cherokee Industrial Park, which is on tribal land at 6929 N. Lakewood Ave.
Cherokee Nation officials said Wednesday that the project would be overseen and administered by Cherokee Nation Management & Consulting, a company under Cherokee Federal, the federal contracting arm of Cherokee Nation Businesses.
CNB is scheduled to go before the Tulsa County Board of Adjustment on Tuesday to request a use variance that would be needed to move forward with the project.
“The Federal Government has approached the Cherokee Nation about the prospect of assisting with the ongoing crisis of unaccompanied refugee children who are seeking asylum in the United States from locations such as Ukraine, South America, and Afghanistan,” CNB’s application to the BOA states.
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“As part of that relationship, the Cherokee Nation has been tasked with locating a facility that can be repurposed to temporarily provide housing and sponsor placement services to these children while they are being relocated from their respective countries of origin to their sponsor homes around the country.”
Tim Roberts, senior vice president of CNB, said the preliminary proposal laid out in the BOA application provides the groundwork for a humanitarian mission to provide temporary shelter for immigrant children.
“This proposed project could create significant economic development opportunities for the betterment of Cherokee Nation citizens and the community at large,” Roberts said. “The economic impact could be substantial, creating more than 2,000 jobs in the Tulsa area.
“If this humanitarian opportunity to help immigrant youth comes to fruition, we look forward to partnering with the community to serve this mission.”
The proposed immigration facility would be in keeping with other humanitarian efforts CNB has undertaken with the federal government, including welcoming Afghan refugees into the country and leading a California emergency intake site for immigrant youth, according to Cherokee Nation officials.
The Board of Adjustment application makes no reference to how many children would be housed in the facility. Cherokee Nation officials said that would be up to the federal government to determine.
The application also makes no mention of when the facility would open but does stress that time is of the essence.
“To ensure that the program is in place in time to meet the need for accommodations, the Cherokee Nation must move quickly,” the application states.
The unaccompanied minors would not be placed in local communities unless, “by coincidence, the sponsor family already resided locally,” according to the application.
The application defines “temporary” housing as no more than eight months.
Verizon Business Network Services LLC is listed as the current owner of the building complex. The facility would include four interconnected structures, or “mods” and an adjacent fifth building. The structures were built as an office park in 1985, according to the application.
“The Subject Property is unique because it provides an existing large square footage of interconnected buildings that can quickly and easily be repurposed for the intended use in time to accommodate the very unique program that is unlike any other in Tulsa County,” the application states.
“Further, unlike other similar properties, the Subject Property has an ample ‘campus’ and internal circulation infrastructure that is important for circulation while being somewhat isolated from more densely populated adjacent uses.”
Cherokee Expressway Industrial District, now known as Cherokee Industrial Park, was established in 1977 east of U.S. 75 and south of 76th Street North in unincorporated Tulsa County.
It is home to multiple major employers, including a Macy’s Fulfillment Center and a Whirlpool Distribution Center.
A use variance is exactly what it sounds like — a variance from the allowed uses listed in the zoning code.
The county BOA meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in the St. Francis conference room of Williams Tower 1 at 1 W. Third St.