Districts would help developers

Three community improvement districts, including a controversial west-side entertainment plan, will go to September public hearings after the Wichita City Council signed on Tuesday morning.

The council set Sept. 14 hearings on the proposed Bowllagio entertainment development at Kellogg and Maize Road, the Central Park Place retail development around the new Lowe's at 2600 N. Maize Road and a Sav-A-Lot grocery store at Washington and Pawnee in the Planeview district.

The action is the first step for Jay Maxwell's Maize 54 Development to levy an extra 2 percent sales tax to finance infrastructure improvements and land acquisition.

The community improvement district will include the Bowllagio mixed-use entertainment center, a loft hotel and a specialty Mexican restaurant.

The maximum amount of the Bowlaggio CID petition is $75 million, on a pay-as-you-go plan, said Allen Bell, the city's economic development director.

The money collected "at the cash register" will go to the Kansas Department of Revenue, Bell said, which will keep 2 percent for administrative costs before forwarding the balance to the city.

Bell said the city will withhold 5 percent of the sales tax money it gets from the state before passing the balance to the developers to defray project costs.

Tim Austin, the project engineer and spokesman, declined to elaborate on the group's plans in light of the city action, including a specific question whether the CID would make the group's failed application earlier this summer for Kansas STAR bonds moot.

Maize 54 asked council members in June to endorse a $13 million STAR bond ordinance, one funding piece of the proposed $95 million project.

But the council refused under pressure from the city's bowling community and anti-tax groups, leading to the withdrawal of the request.

At the same time, Maize 54 officials indicated to the council that they would request a CID designation for the development.

Austin said he would make Maxwell available for comment, but Maxwell did not return telephone calls Tuesday.

Wichita commercial developer Brad Saville's Central Park Place project would create retail north of the new Lowe's, and would establish pad sites on Maize Road near the Lowe's for restaurant and retail use, the city's Bell said.

Saville is proposing a 1 percent retail sales tax to finance the costs of land acquisition and infrastructure costs.

It, like the Bowlaggio plan, would be pay as you go, with no city bond issue, Bell said.

Developer Rob Snyder's 15,000-square-foot Planeview Sav-A-Lot is a $2 million grocery store designed to provide groceries to the underserved, said former council member Greg Ferris, representing the developer.

The extra sales tax, though, drew some criticism from audience members who said it could unfairly burden low-income customers.