Wichita council expected to choose developer Tuesday for Arkansas River’s west bank

08/02/2013 6:53 PM

08/06/2014 2:33 AM

City Council members are still expected to select a developer for land along the Arkansas River’s west bank Tuesday, despite one developer claiming this week that his company’s plans for the site were compromised by city staff.

According to city documents, the River Vista proposal submitted by Wichita developer George Laham and investors has been selected by the city’s downtown development incentives evaluation team, scoring 80 out of a possible 100 points.

The Riv, a proposal submitted by a team led by Wichita developer Steve Clark, scored 75 out of a possible 100 points – although the evaluation doesn’t include two revisions submitted July 30 by the Clark team. Those include a $1 million contribution to build a boathouse for Wichita Festivals offices and the Wichita State University rowing team, and a $500,000 contribution to a regional medical simulation center being developed downtown by physician Paul Uhlig and Wichita developer Gary Oborny.

It wasn’t immediately clear Friday whether the revisions would result in a re-evaluation of the Clark proposal.

Both projects will seek substantial tax increment financing and STAR Bond incentives, the latter possible because the project falls along the river corridor between WaterWalk and the Keeper of the Plains statue.

Tax increment financing captures future tax gains to subsidize improvements. STAR bonds allow the state’s sales tax on purchases to be captured for certain development costs in a district, including land acquisition and public and private infrastructure.

According to city documents, the Riv is seeking tax increment financing for public infrastructure, including expansion of on-street public parking along McLean and on-site surface parking, utility relocation and site preparation. The Riv also is proposing the use of STAR bonds to make river bank improvements.

The Riv plan is estimated at $17.8 million, with $9.4 million in private debt financing, almost $4 million in private equity, almost $1.7 million in TIF proceeds and $1.94 million in STAR bonds. It also asks the city for the five-acre project site, originally acquired by the city for $3.4 million, for free.

River Vista is also requesting tax increment funding for parking and infrastructure improvements, and also is seeking STAR bonds for river bank improvements.

The project cost for River Vista is $24.7 million, including $13 million in private debt financing, $6.45 million in private equity, $2.4 million in TIF proceeds and $2.5 million in STAR bonds. The developers are offering $100,000 for the five-acre site.

Clark and Laham have been critics in the past of the city’s willingness to invest public money in private projects. In September 2012 – after his group began seeking the First and McLean deal – Clark wrote an e-mail blaming the city’s policies for his decision to seek the incentives.

In a four-page letter this week to City Manager Robert Layton, Clark complained that the city backed out of a commitment to his company as the site developer, and compromised his site plan for the area – allegations denied by Layton.

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