One of downtown Wichita’s largest redevelopment projects is about to take a critical step forward Tuesday, with generous city help.
The Wichita City Council will consider a development agreement for the nearly 200,000-square-foot former Finney State Office Building on William Street between Market and Broadway.
If the council approves the agreement with Ferguson Development of Memphis, Tenn., the developer would have a year to do the preliminary architecture and buy the building from the Wichita Public Building Commission. The price is set at $100,000.
The building was used for 20 years as offices for the Kansas Department for Children and Families, as well as other state agencies.
Ferguson Development president Glenn Ferguson, in his original proposal to the city, proposed turning at least part of the building into a higher-education consortium to house satellite campuses for universities, medical schools, community colleges and technical colleges from Kansas and neighboring states. This would include administrative offices, shared classroom, laboratories, lecture halls and student housing, with retail and restaurant space on the ground level.
Because the east building is too large for apartments in its extensive interior to have windows to the outside, the city envisions a seven-story atrium cut through the center of the building to provide interior-facing overlooks and light.
The building is actually two connected buildings, sharing a heating/ventilation/air conditioning system. In addition, the buildings have substantial deferred maintenance.
As part of the agreement to be considered Tuesday, the city would:
▪ Give Ferguson $2 million upon completion.
▪ Give Ferguson up to $1 million from the Wichita Public Building Commission.
▪ Lend Ferguson $1.5 million to renovate the facade.
▪ Approve up to $35 million in industrial revenue bonds to exempt the sales tax on building materials.
▪ Negotiate an agreement later for use of the city-owned parking garage and skywalk at Market and William.
In exchange, Ferguson would agree to:
▪ Close the purchase of the building within a year from contract approval.
▪ Start construction within three months of purchase.
▪ Complete the project within 18 months.
▪ Provide at least $25 million for the project.
If the developer doesn’t complete the project adequately, the city would be guaranteed at least $25 million or the cost to finish the project.
Last year, Ferguson bought the property at 701 E. Second St., a 40,000-square-foot building in Old Town, for renovation. He has mostly built and operated conventional apartment complexes in smaller cities in Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas; he owns and manages about 1,000 units.
But he said last year that he is opportunistic, attracted to a wide variety of buildings and markets, and he has done renovation of older buildings in bigger cities before.
In an interview in October, Ferguson said that he typically owns and operates his development projects long term.