April 6, 2012

Revised plan to develop I-135 and 47th South goes back to council

The Wichita City Council takes the first shot Tuesday at a revived plan to redevelop a dormant south Wichita intersection.

The Wichita City Council takes the first shot Tuesday at a revived plan to redevelop a dormant south Wichita intersection.

Jay Maxwell’s plan to develop a blighted area near I-135 and 47th South comes back before the council after two major project revisions in February.

The council voted in February to create tax-increment financing for a 72-acre mixed-use development in a blighted part of south Wichita. Maxwell plans retail, hotel, restaurants and office space on the initial 50 acres, along with a medical complex on the 22 acres west of the Riverside Drainage Canal.

The project revisions will raise all of the land in the district out of the 100-year floodplain and will cap available tax-increment funding at $16.5 million. The revisions also will need approval from the Sedgwick County Commission.

Commissioner Richard Ranzau said Friday he needs more information about the city’s proposed revisions. But he didn’t speak favorably about the TIF, saying city officials need to put the tax burden for the redevelopment on its users through a community improvement district.

“Generally, I think they should increase the CID rate down there, so the people who use it pay for it instead of the whole county,” Ranzau said. “They have the ability to do that themselves at City Hall. I want to know why they don’t do that instead of putting the burden on the higher county. The people in that district have said they’re willing to pay higher taxes to have that development, so let them do it.”

Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, however, dismissed Ranzau’s objections, saying his council appears ready to proceed with Southfork.

“I don’t think it’s changed at all here,” Brewer said. “It’s not about the project for Commissioner Ranzau. It’s about his philosophy.”

Tax-increment financing, or TIF, captures future taxes in a district to subsidize current improvements. Costs covered by such financing in a redevelopment district include site preparation, land acquisition and infrastructure.

The district, approved in December by the city, was withdrawn Feb. 7 when the Sedgwick County Commission raised concerns about the land’s vulnerability to flooding and the lack of any cap on the amount of TIF money available to the project.

Under state law governing TIF districts, the county commission and the Wichita school board hold veto power over the project if significant harm would be done to either.

Maxwell also is the lead developer of the proposed Bowllagio entertainment complex at Kellogg and Maize Road, another project that originally sought $13 million in state sales tax and revenue, or STAR, bonds and a $75 million sales tax hike through a community improvement district to finance. The project has remained out of the news for about a year since dirt work began on the site, but developers say Bowllagio is not dead.

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