Sedgwick County to sell 'gateway' property at Waterman and Washington

Sedgwick County has put a prime piece of downtown commercial property on the market for sealed bids.

The county will open bids Sept. 22 on about 43,000 square feet, including a small building, on the northwest corner of Washington and Waterman.

It's a corner dubbed a "gateway to downtown" by downtown revitalization leaders.

County officials are awaiting completion of a new appraisal on the property, which they paid almost $1 million for before two buildings on it were torn down for street work.

That appraisal will likely provide a guide for the bidding process, said Ron Holt, assistant Sedgwick County manager.

"We're not in the property promotion business," Holt said. "We don't know whether the building removal factors into the appraisal, but I can tell you that the county isn't saying, 'Do the appraisal and let's put a premium on the property based on where it's located.' "

Developers think the corner has strong potential for a multi-story, multi-use building, said Jeff Fluhr, president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp.

"Washington is a gateway into downtown," Fluhr said. "So that particular site, with the Intrust Bank Arena to the west and its location, we see several commercial development opportunities there."

Planners see an active restaurant or bistro on the first floor, Fluhr said.

"In that corridor, we see something with multiple stories with a ground floor with some animation to it, and some other uses above it," he said.

Fluhr said planners view the Waterman corridor as key to downtown redevelopment.

"I see Waterman as the emergence of another Douglas Avenue," he said. "Because of the arena and its connection to WaterWalk and the riverfront, that street can become a destination corridor."

Holt said the county bought the property as it sought to improve traffic flow to the arena.

"We needed a significant portion of that land for street improvements, and we couldn't do the deal without taking the whole thing," he said.

The land initially had potential for extra arena parking, but Holt said county officials have determined more parking isn't needed.

"It doesn't fit the arena parking plan because we have significant parking to the east with the big lot just south of Waterman," he said.