A group of developers is near a deal with Cox Communications to buy the downtown Union Station complex and plan to create a mixed-use entertainment and retail venue in the historic train station, multiple sources say.
The developers, who have requested anonymity pending a letter of intent to purchase the complex, are planning a "venue that will tie the arena and Old Town together," a centerpiece of the comprehensive plan for downtown revitalization.
The sale price and other details of the proposed development will be revealed once a letter of intent is in place, sources say.
City officials such as Mayor Carl Brewer and City Manager Robert Layton have targeted Union Station as ground zero for downtown revitalization, a must-have retail and entertainment site that could tie several walkable downtown attractions together.
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"Union Station is a fundamental and important resource to downtown because it's very near Old Town and the arena, and it's one of the points that can connect them," said Goody Clancy's David Dixon, the lead planner on the recently completed downtown comprehensive plan project.
"It's a critical way to connect the dots in that area. There's a critical mass of fun and eating choices and destinations close to each other. It won't detract from Old Town at all; rather, it will build on Old Town and get people who think about Old Town to think about other parts of the city."
Dixon said city officials are right to focus on Union Station as the first development point for downtown revitalization.
"Really, Old Town was the first launching pad for downtown," he said. "The arena is another, and the fact this project can be a third right between the two is terrific."
A deal in 2009 to sell the building to a Clay Center investor fell through in a dispute over parking.
Businessman Phil Frigon's $5.5 million deal to buy the campus fell through when he failed to lease parking to the city and county for Intrust Bank Arena.
The building went on the market in the spring of 2008, about a year after Cox vacated the building for bigger offices at 901 George Washington Blvd.
Union Station was part of a four-building package originally offered for $6.4 million.
Also included were the old Rock Island depot and baggage facility, and the old Wichita Grand Hotel, once occupied by Sullivan Higdon and Sink before becoming Cox Media.
The Rock Island depot, designed by J.T. Long, was built in 1887. Union Station opened on March 8, 1914.
Train traffic ended at Union Station in 1979. The building sat empty until December 1982, when Multimedia Cablevision bought it and spent $3 million on an office remodel.
Cox officials declined comment on the pending deal, but spokesman Jay Allbaugh said the company still wants the building to be a crucial part of downtown revitalization.