$38 million apartments bring 'energy, vibrancy' to Arkansas River
A $38 million downtown riverbank apartment project years in the making is about to make its debut.
Developers of the 202-unit River Vista, which stretches across the west bank of the Arkansas River between Douglas and First Street, will open apartments on the north end of the complex in April. The remaining apartments are expected to open by June, said Amy Liebau, River Vista president and chief operating officer of Laham Development, one of River Vista's three developers.
Rental rates for the apartments start at $955 a month for a one-bedroom and $1,050 for a two-bedroom.
The views from most of the apartments are unique, offering views of the river and the downtown skyline looking east.
"We feel like one of the best amenities is the view," Liebau said.
River Vista has had people on a waiting list since before the project started. It's also had some "commit to leasing without seeing a photo, seeing anything," Liebau said.
"I think the response we've had is pretty impressive given we've kept it under wraps for a grand unveiling."
Liebau would not say how many people were on the waiting list or have committed to leasing a River Vista unit.
Boats and bikes
Each unit will have modern finishes and include a washer and dryer, stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops. Each ground-level unit will have a patio, while the upper units will have balconies. Fourteen corner apartments in the complex offer extra features, including some with vaulted ceilings, loft bedrooms and 14-foot floor-to-ceiling windows.
Those corner units — "what we would call our premium units," Libeau said — rent for more, though she would not say how much.
Other amenities fronting the river include small plaza-like areas with bench seating for residents. Some will have water features with bubbling fountains and gas fire pits while others will have pergola-style coverings and outdoor grills. A "resort-style" pool will be on the southeast end of the complex as well as a clubhouse and fitness center.
River Vista has a two-deck parking garage with the upper level open to public parking and a gated dog-walking area with on-site wash.
The four-story complex will have a ground-level, riverfront shop that will rent small boats and bicycles to residents and the public.
Liebau said 120 feet of the River Vista property that developers purchased from the city for $100,000 — from the river's edge to the complex's wall — will be accessible to the public, including the boat and bike rental shop and a 240-foot-long lighted dock. That dock will be used by members of Wichita State University's Shocker Rowing team. The team will have 7,000 square feet of rent-free space to store their boats — what they call "shells" — as well as showers and locker rooms next to the rental shop.
River Vista's developers are also making improvements to the public river walk, such as new lighting, concrete and landscaping.
Developers are also restoring the McLean monument fountains in Delano Park, which sits to the south of River Vista, as well as re-landscaping the park to include an outdoor, amphitheater-style seating area for future music concerts performed from a floating stage on the river.
"There will be a big transformation in the next 60 days" of the park area, Liebau said.
Access to River Vista's residences and non-public amenities are controlled by gates and other security measures.
Activating the river
As downtown apartment projects go, River Vista, 150 N. McLean, is one of the two biggest in the past eight years in terms of cost and units. Only The Douglas at 200 E. Douglas rivals River Vista in the number of units, at 240. The projects are equal in cost, according to Wichita Downtown Development Corp. information.
It joins 15 other downtown apartment projects — totaling 835 units — to open since the adoption of the Project Downtown master revitalization plan in 2010, according to WDDC.
Liebau said River Vista's developers, who besides Laham include Dave Wells of Key Construction and Old Town developer Dave Burk, are confident in the project's ability to attract tenants. An earlier River Vista plan called for 154 units with remaining space at the site to be used by office tenants.
But "as we did our market research we found higher demand for apartments," Liebau said.
Jeff Fluhr, president of the Greater Wichita Partnership, a public-private economic development group, said River Vista "brings a diversification of housing options" to downtown because it is located along the Arkansas river.
It also "activates" downtown's riverfront, he said, by adding a new group of people who aren't just there to walk their dogs or ride their bicycles along the river. Now, he said, there will be people out on the balconies of their apartments, or at River Vista's pool that overlooks the river.
"That brings an energy, a vibrancy we have not had," he said.
"As we continue to develop our riverfront, we want to be authentic. We want to be distinctive," Fluhr said. "River Vista really contributes to our distinctiveness, our authenticity."