Carrie Rengers

Major development to bring restaurants, other businesses to riverfront near stadium

UPDATED For decades — maybe even longer — Wichitans have complained about the lack of restaurants, bars and other businesses along the Arkansas River.

That’s going to change with Riverfront Village, a 7-acre mixed-use development that Riverfront Partners plans along the river just south of Douglas and north of where the new baseball stadium will be built.

“We want to bring something to downtown, to the river, that truly takes downtown development and river development to a new level,” says developer George Laham.

He’s partners in the project with Old Town developer Dave Burk of Marketplace Properties, Key Construction president Dave Wells and Jerry Jones of Jones Commercial Development.

The developers are working with Metropolitan Baptist Church, which currently is at the property and will retain a small presence with the redevelopment.

“The land is important to our congregation and we wanted to do what is best for us and our City,” said Mason Lampkin, the church’s pastor, in a statement.

The partners have been working on the development for three years, but Laham says the vision for the Village is still preliminary. He says the partners are coordinating with the city, the stadium and Delano.

“It all needs to be one cohesive master plan.”

Laham says commercial, residential and office uses are all possibilities.

“We’ll see what the market dictates, and that’s what we’ll develop.”

Laham says the Village likely will include eating and drinking establishments, such as a rooftop restaurant or two. There aren’t any signed deals yet, but Laham teases that something along the lines of often-requested restaurants or a grocery store are great ideas.

The city’s new stadium plan includes a pedestrian bridge to the Hyatt Regency Wichita, Century II and WaterWalk.

“The idea was to tie those areas to the ballpark and Riverfront Village,” Laham says.

The church is going to renovate part of its existing building.

“They will downsize to a much more manageable facility,” Laham says.

He says it will fit with the new development, but “they’ll have their own unique design.”

“We are very excited to see what we believe to be another major step in God’s work of revitalization at Metropolitan Baptist Church,” Lampkin said in his statement.

The cost of the Village will depend on what’s included. Laham won’t give an estimate on what it may be.

“It will certainly be a substantial investment in downtown.”

Until the partners make a master plan, Laham says they won’t know if they’ll seek industrial revenue bonds or any other kind of city or state financial involvement.

“No decisions have been made at this time.”

The property sits in a larger sales tax and revenue bond district that includes the stadium and some surrounding areas.

In a statement, Mayor Jeff Longwell said the Village will create “a landmark for this community for years to come.”

“We are not just building a baseball stadium, we are building a gathering place for the community that will draw visitors from across the region.”

Laham, Burk and Wells are all partners in River Vista Apartments, another big development that opened this year along the river at First and McLean.

“We were looking at the future of river development, and clearly the church site . . . was kind of the next logical development site,” Laham says.

“Our intent, like with River Vista . . . is to embrace Delano.”

Complementary development and connectivity are key, he says.

Laham says there will be a promenade that connects the Village to the stadium and Delano.

“We hope to have something here for everyone. . . . A place for everyone to call their downtown.”

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or crengers@wichitaeagle.com.
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