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Wichita puts eight downtown lots up for sale

Wichita officials put eight city-owned downtown lots on the market this week.

In a 12-page booklet called "Project Downtown: Catalyst Sites," the city invited 250 developers to submit ideas for the tracts deemed strategic assets to downtown's revitalization.

The city will consider only ideas that fit into its downtown revitalization master plan, which calls for creating more recreation areas, shops, restaurants, offices and apartments and condominiums, said Scott Knebel, the city's downtown revitalization manager, and Jeff Fluhr, president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp.

"We've had offers to flip some of these as totally commercial sites, and we've even had some nonprofits want to use the space on the river. I'm not sure any of that is fair to our citizens," said Jeff Longwell, Wichita's vice mayor.

"We want something that is more open to benefit more of the citizens, more public spaces along these corridors. We're not sure what that looks like, so that's why we're initiating this process."

Gary Oborny, president of Occidental Management, said he'd scanned the information after he received it Friday afternoon and planned to dissect it in more detail this weekend.

Oborny praised the move, saying the packet includes several attractive pieces of downtown property.

The determining factor for many developers, Oborny said, will be the asking price. No prices are included in the packet.

"It'll come down, probably, to how motivated the city is to move the ground," he said. "Obviously, they'd like to recoup some money for the coffers."

The parcels, existing uses and their suggested uses in the downtown master plan are:

* 225 N. McLean Blvd. , 8.5 acres including Delano Park, the McLean Fountain, the Chisholm Trail marker, the West Bank Stage and a bicycle and pedestrian pathway.

The comprehensive plan suggests a new building along the south side of Second Street between McLean and the Arkansas River, including 20,000 square feet of restaurant and/or retail space, 70 housing units and a boating/biking recreation facility, all contained in a four- or five-story building.

The plan also suggests the addition of a stage and concert green in the existing park space between McLean and the river.

Delano Park and the McLean Fountain will not be considered for redevelopment with another use.

* 151 N. Waco , 3.5 acres, including 3.1 acres west of Waco, currently used for surface parking, a bicycle and pedestrian pathway and a bus stop.

The plan suggests one or more new buildings, including housing, a ground-floor restaurant and a retail space framing a river-oriented courtyard enhancing access to the river. Housing needs are estimated at approximately 130 units in three- to five-story buildings.

The plan also suggests redevelopment improving pedestrian access, more housing and greater use of existing public parking.

* Southwest of Maple and McLean at the river , 4.4 acres, currently vacant.

This site, just south of Lawrence-Dumont Stadium and east of the Wichita Ice Center, is suggested as a possible site for multistory apartments or condominiums taking advantage of the river.

* 319 and 325 S. Broadway, 324 S. Market , 0.7 acres, currently used as surface parking.

These sites, with their proximity to the English Street walking corridor, are suggested for residential development.

* 200 S. Broadway , 1.8 acres, surface parking for the State Office Building.

The master plan suggests a new mid-block public parking structure to serve office and arena parking, along with the anticipated revival of the Douglas, Henry's and Petroleum buildings.

It also suggests 80 to 120 new housing units on the old Allis Hotel site, along with a modest-size park.

* 500 S. Topeka , 0.5 acres, former fire station used for offices and storage.

The master plan suggests a major renovation of the fire station, including studio and/or gallery space on the first floor, additional studio space on the upper floor, affordable housing on the upper floor for artists and a possible addition behind the building for more affordable housing.

The plan also suggests market-rate housing on the upper floor and in the addition, and public use on the ground level, such as a cafe or small store that could blend with an art gallery.

* 114, 120 and 122 N. Emporia, 115 N. St. Francis and 500 E. Douglas , 0.9 acres, used for surface parking.

The master plan suggests development of 500 E. Douglas as a downtown row-type building with retail and restaurants on the ground floor and residential or office space on the upper floors.

Properties north of the Douglas frontage may be needed for parking, but could be developed.

* 102 S. St. Francis , 1.1 acres, including Nafzger Park and surface parking.

The master plan suggests 50,000 to 60,000 square feet of office space above 8,000 to 12,000 square feet of ground-floor restaurant and retail space.

Nafzger Park will not be considered for redevelopment as part of the plan, and should be improved with a wide public walk between the new office building and the surface parking.

Knebel said city officials are eager to gauge developer interest in the eight parcels, and are ready to move "right now" on any proposals consistent with the downtown redevelopment master plan.

"Here's what's important for folks to understand," Longwell said. "We want redevelopment downtown to encourage greater public use of the space, and we're not sure we're getting that now."

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