Neighbors Lead Charge In Transforming North Tulsa Community

Thursday, August 3rd 2023, 9:00 am

By: Chinh Doan

New homes and businesses are popping up around North Tulsa.

Each property is intentional and catered to the needs of this community.

“The residents, the homeowners have wanted this for 20 years,” said Stuart McDaniel of GuRuStu Communities. “The Crutchfield Neighborhood Revitalization Plan of 2003 enumerated a number of goals."

Stuart and Katie McDaniel said they had no connection to North Tulsa but felt called to moved there in 2016 to start their family, and the idea for GuRuStu Communities was born.

"I don't think that we would be able to understand this living and breathing neighborhood if we weren't a part of it, and there's not another community that I could foresee myself feeling more a part of than where we are now,” said Katie.

The idea to invest in this area came when the McDaniels’ young employees from GuRuStu's marketing and advertising firm downtown were struggling to find affordable housing.

The couple wanted to renovate a few homes for their workers.

As the McDaniels added two babies, they also added properties.

The couple now has 300 properties, most in the Crutchfield neighborhood: Vacant lots and land, single-family homes, multiplexes, an industrial warehouse, multi-tenant housing and even a historic church.

"The properties that he's acquired are mostly vacant lots and dilapidated structures that were sitting here that no one else chose to invest in, and he figured out a way to make it happen without a large sum of money that he had been handed by anyone to make that happen,” said Katie.

As News On 6 toured the neighborhood with the McDaniels, we can see their pride.

"Others tell me it's noticeable, the change and improvement,” said Stuart. “I always look at something as how it can be improved, how it can be better, how we can clean it up."

The change is a welcome sight for North Tulsa natives like Westley Gamble who oversees the McDaniels' properties.

"It gives me an opportunity to help continue to build and turn what at one time had went down, bring it back to life and make something very special,” said Gamble.

Gamble, like most of GuRuStu's employees, live in this community, either in their own place or in one of the McDaniels' renovated homes.

"The house is really nice, but also I'm a part of the community, so everything that's happening in the community from day to day I get to be a part of, and I save a lot of gas,” said Gamble.

With growth comes the need for fresh, affordable food.

Katie Plohocky, co-founder and director of RG Foods, said she moved her non-profit to the McDaniels' property to support their mission.

Plohocky said RG Foods employs 18 people to supply fresh foods to underserved communities through a grocery store on wheels.

"It's really a full-service grocery store,” said Plohocky. “We have everything from fresh meat, fresh produce, frozen, refrigerated, milk, eggs, bread, baking supplies, a little bit of cleaning supplies."

Plohocky said RG Foods also gets it supply from local farmers, like Candice Thorburn of Farm Mountain OK.

“This is the coolest initiative I’ve ever been a part of,” said Thorburn.

Collaboration continues with plans to build a co-op grocery store along Peoria.

"We are going to open it, stabilize it and then we're giving it back to the community, so we're starting it as a cooperative, so the people that live in the neighborhood will have part ownership of the store,” said Plohocky.

Plohocky said the market will help the diverse neighborhood become healthy physically and financially.

"We really want to create economic opportunities and business ownership,” said Plohocky. “We want to be able to keep the flow of dough inside the community instead of it leaving the communities because that's the only way you can really build wealth."

Down the street, there is another new business, also on one of the McDaniels’ properties.

Little GuRus STEAM Academy serves infants up to four years old with the curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

Co-owner and director, Dalawna Brent, said this business will make an impact for years to come.

"It is really important,” said Brent. “We know that there's a childcare crisis in the area, within the state of Oklahoma and particularly in North Tulsa. It's been hard for families to find appropriate childcare options."

The McDaniels said they are not interested in real estate or making money but rather investing in a community that's been neglected for so long.

"If we can't put enough focus behind that, and all we're interested in is high rise apartment buildings and downtown, we have lost, we've missed the boat,” said Stuart. “These communities is where it's at, and where we'll be, and where families need to be."