Progress OKC is a community development corporation recently created by the Alliance for Economic Development for Oklahoma City.

Its purpose is to be an economic and social resource that spurs investment and development in areas of Oklahoma City that have traditionally been under-resourced or disinvested. As a CDC, Progress OKC can access grants, community contributions and other funding sources not available to the Alliance for Economic Development.

The CDC will focus on developing and managing affordable housing, job readiness and placement and encouraging economic development. The cornerstone of the organization’s success will be its collaborations with community residents and community development partners.

Last week, a small group of community leaders got a behind-the-scenes tour of the renovations of Page Woodson High School. As developer Ron Bradshaw showed the group his plans for the space, it was exciting to see his vision, as well as his reverence to its historical architecture. When complete, Page Woodson will be a mixed-use space of affordable apartments, community meeting space and an auditorium that will be leased and managed by Progress OKC. The space will be available for community arts organizations and other community groups to offer performances and services to the community at little or no cost.

Page Woodson is a good example of how a CDC can help stimulate community involvement through economic development. The developer is renovating the structure of the auditorium using private funding and historic renovation tax credits. The development budget does not cover the expenses of new audio, lighting and curtains –things necessary to make the auditorium a worthy performing arts venue. Currently Progress OKC is writing grants and asking the public to help raise the $500,000 needed to purchase these items.

The auditorium is Progress OKC’s first project and one that I have been eager to start for some time. After decades of neglect and vandalism, the auditorium once again will be filled with dance, drama and music performances, bustling audiences, celebrations and community engagement activities.