By Carl Lewis Staff Writer Southwest Ledger
A former Sears department store in Lawton’s Central Mall may not sit empty much longer. Lawton City Council members unanimously voted Tuesday to approve an agreement leasing portions of the former 105,353 square-foot mall anchor space to defense contractors as part of the FIRES Innovation Science and Technology Accelerator (FISTA) program.
The city’s agreement with Central Mall Realty Holdings LLC opens the door to the kind of collaborative work with defense contractors that can put Lawton one step closer to realizing its goal of a strategic defense-centric technology park near Fort Sill.
“FISTA is the combined effort of the City Council, Fort Sill and business and education leaders working together to create opportunities for the citizens of Lawton,” Mayor Stan Booker said Wednesday in a phone interview. “FISTA is absolutely a team effort.”
Lawton-Fort Sill Working Group member Nate Slate said Wednesday the move is a step in the right direction for both Lawton and Fort Sill.
“FISTA will be a business development magnet for Lawton-Fort Sill that will result in much needed high- tech jobs,” Slate said. FISTA Authority Chairman Clarence Fortney said the group is currently conducting a 45-day due diligence evaluation on the building. Fortney said if “everything checks out,” the group plans to purchase the building.
“The FISTA (Fires Innovation Science & Technology Accelerator) Innovation Park in Lawton-Fort Sill is open for businesses across America and around the world, creating high-tech jobs in R&D, S&T through a collaboration of industry, academia, defense and defense-related organizations – enabling the Army’s modernization,” according to James Taylor, the FISTA Director.
Additional details regarding potential lessees and partners are expected to be announced in the coming days and weeks.