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What next at WaterWalk? A TIF tiff?

I’ll say this for the long-struggling WaterWalk development: Its latest call to the bullpen has summoned the Mariano Rivera of Wichita entrepreneurs.

And we’re going to find out soon how much fastball Jack DeBoer has left, because the bases are loaded down there on the east bank and WaterWalk has nobody at all out. And the fans in the stands are hot under the collar, pointing fingers all the way.

DeBoer’s got a ton of challenges on his plate: The public’s angry about their investment and the lack of progress at the development, retailers and restaurateurs are running, not walking, from leases in this credit environment. His one retailer down there  has a front door pointing the wrong way.

And perhaps most significantly, as we’ve seen this week, the only support he’s going to get from City Hall – the same building where the 2003 budget cuts that doomed the project got their start – is moral. This city council certainly wants DeBoer to succeed. But they’re out of money.

City Manager Bob Layton on Friday professed his confidence in DeBoer, which is more than some of the city’s commercial development crowd voiced this week. Some fear that the development will fail, leaving a financially strapped City Hall on the hook for $41 million in infrastructure scheduled to be paid back by the tax revenues WaterWalk has yet to generate.

DeBoer is a brilliant man, a fountain of ideas that he maps out on his trademark legal pad.  He’ll need all of them to strike out the side down on the east bank.

But don’t bet against that happening quite yet. It’ll be fascinating to watch DeBoer’s work in the bottom of WaterWalk’s ninth inning.

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