A 'jump start' for downtown

It's a rare sight to see a number of presidents and chief executives of some of the city's biggest banks in one room together, but that was what happened at a news conference Thursday morning announcing the formation of a downtown loan consortium.

The consortium of 12 banks has committed $8 million in private funds to a joint loan program for qualifying downtown Wichita projects.

"This is going to add an additional jump start" to several downtown development projects already under way, said Charlie Chandler, chairman and CEO of Intrust Bank, who formally announced the consortium. "And we want to see lots of projects."

Chandler was but one of the bank bosses in attendance at the conference, held at the Wichita Area Association of Realtors building downtown and attended by 50 people.

Other top executives from the banks participating in the consortium were Clark and Clay Bastian of Fidelity Bank, J.V. Lentell of Intrust Bank, Tom Page of Emprise Bank, John Clevenger of Commerce Bank, Jim Faith of Sunflower Bank, Trish Minard of Southwest National Bank, Drayton Alldritt of Equity Bank, John Boyer of Kanza Bank and Andrea Scarpelli of Simmons First National Bank.

Bank of Kansas, Community Bank of Wichita and Legacy Bank also are members of the consortium.

Projects must already have a primary lender and project equity before applying to the consortium. Projects will be routed through the Wichita Downtown Development Corp.' s design resource center at 507 E. Douglas.

As loans are repaid, those funds will be put back into the consortium to fund additional projects.

Gary Schmitt, an Intrust executive vice president who organized the consortium, said the consortium will respond if the fund sees strong demand and additional money is needed.

"I don't think we'll have any trouble getting the banks to step up again," he said.

Mayor Carl Brewer said the consortium "will help finance the future" of Wichita.

"This is the kind of private leadership that Wichita is blessed with," Brewer said.

Dick Honeyman, an attorney and WDDC chairman, said his organization is "very grateful" for the consortium.

"What the banks have done here is important," Honeyman said, and their crucial role likely won't be realized for some years to come.

Schmitt said formation of the consortium began last fall, with about half a dozen banks originally at the table.

"Everybody was on the same page and they really felt like it is our downtown," he said.