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Union Station developer sets Dec. 11 groundbreaking

The owner of Union Station said it will host a groundbreaking ceremony Dec. 11.
The owner of Union Station said it will host a groundbreaking ceremony Dec. 11. The Wichita Eagle

The owner of Union Station said it will host a ceremony next month to mark the start of its $54 million renovation and expansion.

Occidental Management is planning the event for 3 p.m. Dec. 11 at 701 E. Douglas.

Occidental CEO Gary Oborny, who first announced his plans for the historic downtown property in August, said Wednesday that the groundbreaking will kick off work on the first phase of the two-phase project that is expected to last up to 21/2 years.

“We’re looking forward to not just a groundbreaking but kind of a community celebration,” Oborny said, adding that this year Union Station turns 100.

The first phase includes renovation of the two-story Grand & Patrick Hotel on the easternmost portion of the property as well as the Rock Island depot and Rock Island freight building. First-phase work also calls for the creation and improvement of public access areas such as the Union Station plaza, on the westernmost portion of the property.

“We’re doing an extensive amount of brick, pavers and landscaping” in the public access areas and plaza, Oborny said.

New additions to plans for first-phase work, including the installation of four 20-by-20-foot covered food kiosks in the plaza, have prompted Occidental to re-bid the project, Oborny said, meaning the selection of a general contractor is pending.

“We are going for a second round of bidding because of additional work in the first phase,” he said.

The second phase of the project will include the renovation of the 57,000-square-foot Union Station terminal and attached buildings, construction of two 35,000-square-foot buildings and a parking garage.

Oborny said the overall project will add 150,000 square feet to the property.

He said he will likely announce additional tenants for the property, which he envisions as a mix of retailers, restaurants and office users.

Oborny said plans are still in place for previously announced tenants Scooter’s Coffeehouse, in the Grand & Patrick Hotel, and Neil Bahkta, who will occupy the Rock Island depot, where he will open a fourth Smoothie King as well as a new restaurant and venue space.

As part of the project, Oborny requested that officials establish a tax-increment financing district to repay $17.3 million of the total project cost over 20 years.

Last month the Wichita City Council and Sedgwick County Commission approved the TIF district.

Oborny said there remains “a couple more TIF project items we have to go through” and he expects the final agreement with the city to be completed in early January.

Jeff Fluhr, president of Wichita Downtown Development Corp., said the establishment of a date for the redevelopment of Union Station “is a date and time that as a community, we’ve been waiting for for seven years.”

Reach Jerry Siebenmark at 316-268-6576 or jsiebenmark@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jsiebenmark.

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