WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) – The Wichita City Council on Tuesday approved redevelopment and changes in the tax increment financing (or TIF district) around Riverfront Stadium.
Despite the frustrations of some residents who live in Wichita’s Historic Delano neighborhood, city council members approved the project plan unanimously, 7-0.
The plan will bring a nearly $75 million redevelopment project to McLean and Maple, on the southeast side of the baseball stadium. It includes a nearly $14.6 million public investment. It will use American Rescue Plan Act funds totaling $5.5 million, part of which was awarded to the city last week.
Through Tax Increment Financing (TIF), $8.6 million is allocated to the project for public infrastructure. There’s also $906,500 in an Industrial Revenue Bond (IRB) for sales tax exemption for the office component.
A hotel and two office buildings with retail and restaurant space, a parking garage and Riverfront improvements are planned for a designated area of McLean and Maple.
This has been part of the vision for this area since the deal to create the stadium. But project developers say interest in what they’re creating has increased the scale and accelerated the timetable for the redevelopment.
“Really, it’s a result of the market. We’ve gotten a lot of interest and a lot of inquiries since this project was announced privately in December,” said Wichita Wind Surge CEO Jordan Kobritz.
And with Tuesday’s approval from the Wichita City Council. A massive public-private investment is coming to Wichita’s Riverfront.
“Investing in our Riverfront, investing in our downtown is critical,” said Greater Wichita Partnership President Jeff Fluhr.
One of the developers is the real estate arm of the Wind Surge organization. While the development project is not associated with the Wind Surge baseball club, it’s seen as a way to enhance the stadium.
“There’s going to be more people in the area on a regular basis and more people will be drawn to this area,” Kobritz said.
It makes use of the $8.6 million in tax increment financing, or TIF funds for public-use parts of the project, including the parking garage. Part of a grant awarded to the city last week, $5.5 million in ARPA funds, covers Riverfront improvements and half of the cost of a skybridge between the hotel and one of the office buildings.
The TIF uses commercial taxes normally generated in the district to pay off Riverfront Stadium and other public projects inside the boundary. It’s not a new tax on homeowners and their properties.
Providing tax exemptions on construction materials is $900,000 in industrial revenue bonds.
“Costs are going up, so if we delay, the cots will be going up even more. So, we just felt the timing was right,” Kobritz said.
The city estimates the project’s new scale and timetable will generate $23.8 million in new revenue for Wichita. That money will go toward paying off the stadium.
“You’re siphoning more money in that area, which actually pays off these different financial tools faster,” Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple said. “That’s the goal, to make sure we not only stay ahead of the debt, but also create an atmosphere where people want to go down and spend more money.”
Construction of the Riverfront redevelopment project is set to start this summer and finish in 2024.
However, some in Delano are concerned, saying there’s been a lack of communication and transparency with the project.
“The preliminary renderings today do look promising, it’s just the first time we’ve ever seen them,” said Vince Hancock with the Delano United Community Development Corporation. “The plan has changed significantly since the MOU (memorandum of understanding) you passed in December.”
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