Politics & Government

City approves downtown hotel project

An artist's drawing shows the planned look of the proposed Hilton Garden Inn that two developers want to create in downtown Wichita.
An artist's drawing shows the planned look of the proposed Hilton Garden Inn that two developers want to create in downtown Wichita. Courtesy illustration

Another hotel is coming to downtown Wichita.

The Wichita City Council on Tuesday approved tax incentives that will help the construction of a Hilton Garden Inn at Douglas and Topeka, although two council members questioned whether downtown projects need incentives.

The city agreed to create a community improvement district that will add 1.5 cents per dollar to the sales tax on purchases at the hotel for 10 years to generate a maximum of $930,000 for eligible project costs.

The developer also will be exempt from paying sales taxes on the building materials that go into the construction.

Developers hope to open the hotel by the time Intrust Bank Arena hosts the first two rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 2018.

Wichita Downtown Development Corporation president Jeff Fluhr called it a strong project. “It will bring the first Hilton flag into our downtown,” he said. “It will complete the intersection of Douglas and Topeka with a viable use.”

Mid Continent Hospitality, the builder, already operates the Springhill Suites in Wichita, the Holiday Inn Express and Fairfield Inn in Hutchinson, and other Kansas properties.

A neighboring parking garage is slated to have 90 to 120 parking spots for hotel guests and workers. The developer plans a skyway to connect the hotel and the parking garage.

Council member James Clendenin said the project would bring added value to the entire city, not just the Douglas corridor.

Council member Jeff Blubaugh added that the hotel and its rooftop bar could help jump-start the area around Intrust Bank Arena.

“That’s quite a bit of property tax money that’s going to be coming into the city of Wichita on a building that’s really not of much value right now,” he added. “This is creating a great, long-term income stream for a nearly vacant parking garage that we have right now.”

Mayor Jeff Longwell and council member Bryan Frye raised concerns about specific incentives for downtown development projects.

“I struggle with using city resources to collect and distribute sales tax for the sole benefit of one commercial entity,” Frye said.

Longwell said he’d like to see more discussion about whether downtown development has progressed enough to no longer need incentives.

“I think downtown has reached a point where it can live on its own and I think we’re getting closer all the time,” Longwell said.

Longwell and Frye voted for a substitute motion that would have approved the development without a community improvement district. That fell short by a 2-5 vote.

Daniel Salazar: 316-269-6791, @imdanielsalazar