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River Vista development plans change

This illustration shows the boat dock looking west at River Vista Residences to be built on the west bank of the Arkansas River south of First Street.
This illustration shows the boat dock looking west at River Vista Residences to be built on the west bank of the Arkansas River south of First Street. Courtesy of Spangenberg Phillips Tice Architects

Work on the long-awaited River Vista project at First and McLean may start soon – but it will look a little different from initial plans.

Developers have redesigned plans for the $38.5 million project, and “commercial development at the corner of 1st and McLean is no longer feasible,” according to city documents.

Instead, developer George Laham and his partners will increase the number of apartments at the site from 154 to 204 units.

The decision was made “based on market demand for quality apartments in downtown,” said Amy Liebau, spokeswoman for River Vista.

Bike and boat rentals at the site are still part of the plan, Liebau said.

Initially, developers said they were considering 20,000 square feet of commercial retail space as a second phase to the project. And last year, they considered adding a hotel to the mix, but that’s off the table now, Liebau said.

Developers plan to announce an official groundbreaking date on the project in the coming weeks.

In December, Laham told the City Council that he hoped to begin construction in the spring. But at a meeting last week, city staff members said they expect the project to break ground in the next 30 days.

Dirt from the River Vista project was slated to go toward the pop-up park planned for the former pit along Douglas between Main and Market.

“We’re excited to get this project underway,” Liebau said. “It’s a unique opportunity to set the tone for future development on the river.”

Initially, River Vista was to be developed by Laham, Dave Wells of Key Construction, developer Dave Burk and movie theater magnate Bill Warren.

But according to new city documents, Warren is no longer listed as a partner in the project.

“He has decided to simplify his life by focusing on his main business,” Liebau said.

None of the men involved in the project returned calls for comment.

Financing

At its meeting Tuesday, the Wichita City Council will consider issuing $4.75 million in sales tax revenue bonds for the project’s riverbank improvements. The state already has approved the bonds, according to city documents.

The $38.5 million project includes $24 million in private funding from developers, said Scott Knebel, downtown revitalization manager for the city.

The STAR bond district will cover the riverbank area north from Kellogg to the site, WaterWalk, Century II and nearby hotels, Knebel said.

STAR bonds will go toward clearing the site, utilities, retaining walls, landscaping, a floating dock, rehabilitation of the McLean fountain, water features, art and sculptures and stonework,

According to city documents, River Vista will also receive:

▪ About $3 million for a Community Improvement District for infrastructure improvements like landscaping and irrigation, earthworks, part of the parking garage, architects, site lighting and signage.

▪ About $1 million in Tax Increment Financing for public infrastructure improvements like utilities, sidewalks and the intersection.

▪ $2.5 million in TIF for part of the parking garage.

Laham’s group bought the River Vista land – nearly 5 acres – from the city for $100,000. The property was appraised at $600,000.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_ryan.

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