Carrie Rengers

Exchange Place HUD loan slated to close Tuesday; work could begin Wednesday

In the surest sign yet that work on the Exchange Place project is about to commence, Key Construction this week pulled almost $90,000 in building permits.

“We pulled the full permits for the whole project,” president Dave Wells says.

He says the HUD loan closing, which has been held up a number of times in part due to tax credits involved with the project, is set for Tuesday.

“We’re bringing everybody together – all the parts and pieces – at the HUD office in Kansas City and signing all the documents and starting work,” Wells says. “That’s the short version of months and months of arduous (work).”

The $66 million development is in the heart of downtown and will revitalize two empty, deteriorating buildings – the pink marble Exchange Place and the white brick Bitting Building on the northeast and northwest corners of Douglas and Market – and add a new parking garage and apartment building where the Lerner and Michigan buildings currently are.

Real Development at one point was leading the project but transitioned out of it as the Minnesota Guys, as the developers were known, left Wichita. Dallas developer John McWilliams joined the project to help with a HUD loan in 2012 and continued on with it. The city also is involved.

“We understand on a project like this, they don’t always just happen the next day,” says development analyst Mark Elder. “We’re happy to see it happening. … It’s an integral part to downtown revitalization.”

Wells says the closing “is just the formality of bringing everything together and signing hundreds of documents.”

He says work likely will begin the next day, at least for preliminary things such as placing fencing around the buildings, and he’s eager to do it.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Wells says. “Nine years.”

He says part of the closing includes paying creditors for past projects related to the building.

“Lots of people have been waiting on this,” Wells says.

“It’s a phenomenal, phenomenal addition to the city,” he says. “It cleans up a huge area of our downtown that’s been vacant for decades. … That’s such a negative to your downtown when you have boarded-up buildings.”

Wells says the construction schedule is slated for 20 months.

“This is going to bring a whole vibrancy to downtown.”

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or crengers@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @CarrieRengers.

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