UPDATE, 10 a.m. Tuesday: The Wichita City Council delayed consideration of this proposal for one week on Tuesday. City Manager Robert Layton and City Attorney Jennifer Magana recommended the delay to finalize terms of the contract and King of Freight’s attorney, Bryant Parker, said he agreed with it.
A fast-growing Wichita freight broker will take over the former Gander Mountain building in the WaterWalk if the City Council approves the plan on Tuesday.
King of Freight has signed an agreement with WaterWalk to acquire the rights to use the former outdoor products store as its local headquarters, according to a report attached to the agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting.
“KOF currently has approximately 535 employees officing in Wichita, and is in a phase of rapid expansion,” the report says. “KOF plans to redesign the Gander Mountain space, and there is also vacant space on the parcel for an additional satellite building should one be desired to accommodate more employees.”
In March, Mayor Jeff Longwell hinted that a deal was in the works to bring 700 jobs to the vacant building, which backs up to the east bank of the Arkansas River just south of Waterman. At the time, WaterWalk developer Jack DeBoer said no such deal was in the works.
King of Freight is a rapidly growing freight shipping brokerage with offices in two downtown buildings.
Under the WaterWalk agreement, the company promises to create at least 400 new jobs with an average salary of $50,000 a year.
If it meets those job goals, King of Freight won’t have to pay the city any rent on the Gander Mountain building, according to the city report.
That could be a moot point. The developer and the city were supposed to share profits on rental income at the WaterWalk, but the terms of that agreement are so favorable to the developer that it has never generated any income for the city anyway.
Starting with an original $30.9 million commitment of city funds in 2002, public funding of WaterWalk ultimately rose over time to about $41 million.
The city money paid for land, parking structures, streets, utilities, amenities and, in the case of Gander Mountain, $6 million of construction costs to build the building. The $6 million has been paid back from sales tax income in the area, City Manager Robert Layton said Monday.
Gander Mountain went bankrupt and closed the Wichita store in 2017, and the building has sat vacant since.
Adding 400 King of Freight jobs to the local economy would generate about $1 million in new tax revenue over the next 10 years, according to an analysis by the Wichita State University Center for Economic Development and Business Research.
King of Freight would also pay the city $70,000 a year to lease parking at the site, the city report said.
Layton said his recommendation to the council will be to put that money toward paying for the new baseball stadium project under construction at the northwest corner of Maple and McLean.