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Developers to present Bowllagio again for Wichita City Council consideration

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, at 11:43 a.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012, at 8:58 p.m.

A west-side bowling and retail development will be back before the Wichita City Council on Tuesday, two years after it was dropped amid complaints from some members of the city’s bowling community.

Developer Jay Maxwell’s Maize 54 LLC is seeking pay-as-you-go tax increment financing for Bowllagio, an 86-acre development on blighted floodplain land just north of Kellogg on the east side of Maize Road. Plans call for a mixed-used development anchored by the Bowllagio Bowling and Family Entertainment Center, along with retail, hotel, restaurants and office space.

TIF financing – using the increased tax revenue from a development to pay for eligible public improvement costs, including land acquisition, site preparation and infrastructure – would cover infrastructure work along Kellogg and Maize Road, land acquisition, utility work and fill dirt to remove the area from the flood plain, according to city documents.

What isn’t included in the latest incarnation of Bowllagio is a renewed request for $13 million in sales tax revenue, or STAR bonds, a state incentive for developments designated as regional economic development draws.

“That’s just too big of a hill to climb,” said City Council member Jeff Longwell, whose district includes the proposed project. “There’s more work that needs to be done out there, and a pay-as-you-go TIF like this is better suited to what they need.”

Tim Austin, a Wichita engineer who has served as a spokesman for Maize 54, did not return calls Friday seeking comment.

On Tuesday, the council will be asked to adopt a resolution setting a Nov. 20 public hearing on the TIF request. In September 2010, the council approved a community improvement district for the development, which imposes special taxes to fund some public and private improvements and cover some operating costs within the bounds of the district.

The original Bowllagio plan, a 33-acre development including a boutique hotel and a Latino restaurant by Food Network chef Aaron Sanchez, was pulled in June 2010 after City Council members were besieged by complaints from members of the bowling and restaurant communities objecting to the use of public money to fund their competition. A key element of STAR bond requests is a finding that the applicant won’t financially harm its competitors.

City documents don’t indicate whether the boutique hotel and the Sanchez restaurant remain part of the plan. Sanchez subsequently opened a restaurant a year ago in Leawood, backed financially by Maxwell.

The project’s return caught some of its 2010 opponents by surprise.

Ray Baty, general manager of West Acres Bowling, 749 N. Ridge Road, said he was unaware that the project was still alive before a Friday telephone call. He pledged to renew his opposition at Tuesday’s meeting to the use of public money to finance his competitors.

“They’ve been pretty quiet,” Baty said. “We’re adamantly against that.”

Reach Bill Wilson at 316-268-6290 or bwilson@wichitaeagle.com.

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