Wichita council approves changes for downtown parking garage

The Wichita City Council approved the latest changes in a downtown parking garage and park project that is being fast-tracked to open late this year with its neighbor, the Ambassador Hotel at Douglas and Broadway.

The council approved almost $25,000 in changes, largely to strengthen the parking garage structure, that pose no threat to the project’s $7.57 million budget, city officials said. The changes are primarily to cover more steel reinforcing in the concrete topping slabs throughout the garage. According to city documents, construction of the garage is being hurried to match the anticipated late 2012 opening of the Ambassador Hotel, making significant project changes inevitable during construction. All of the changes are covered in the project’s budget.

Public Works director Alan King and project manager Ed Martin told The Eagle last week that despite the changes, the project will come in under budget and on time. The garage is funded out of the city’s capital improvements budget for 2012. The city has spent or committed almost $6.8 million of the money budgeted for the parking garage and an adjacent city park. The garage project is now estimated at $5 million.

In addition, the garage project has been plagued by the discovery of foundation remnants from three old buildings on the site, dating back more than a century. Removal costs have risen above $165,000, also money contained in the project budget, King said.

King and Martin said officials discovered the construction debris during core soil sampling tests.

Workers have completed reinforcing pilings for the project, and are pouring concrete footings on the site just south of the Kansas Health Foundation. Once that work and underground utility work is complete, the pre-cast slabs for the garage will be installed.

The garage, park and the new hotel, estimated to cost $50 million together, are part of downtown’s first full city block of improvements since the passage of Project Downtown, the city’s master plan for downtown revitalization. The Kansas Health Foundation is launching its facility expansion and Slawson officials are working on a retail and office revival of the old Henry’s building.