Politics & Government

Divided council approves big Delano project

This illustration shows the 180-unit apartment building planned for a development on 7 acres west of downtown Wichita near the new advanced learning library.
This illustration shows the 180-unit apartment building planned for a development on 7 acres west of downtown Wichita near the new advanced learning library. Courtesy illustration

A Johnson County development partnership will build out the “Delano Catalyst” site south and west of the new downtown library, a split Wichita City Council decided Tuesday.

The council approved selling 7 acres of city-owned land to EPC Real Estate Group for $750,000.

The plan is to create a mixed-use apartment/hotel/retail development bridging a gap between the Delano commercial district, along Douglas west of McLean, and the advanced learning library being built at the southwest corner of Sycamore and Second.

The project passed 4-3.

Four developers filed competing plans for the site, which is southwest of Second and McLean and is split into parcels of 4.6 acres and 2.6 acres, divided by North Sycamore.

A committee made up of city officials and public representatives recommended EPC as the best of the four.

“What a great position to be in when we have multiple developers coming to us saying, ‘Pick me,’ ” said Mayor Jeff Longwell, who voted yes for the project along with council members James Clendenin, Janet Miller and Lavonta Williams.

Two of the dissenting council members, Pete Meitzner and Bryan Frye, said they thought the land was too desirable to rush into approving a project. Another council member, Jeff Blubaugh, questioned whether the downtown area is becoming oversaturated with hotels.

The approved plan calls for a mixed-use project with a 180-unit apartment building, at least 5,000 square feet of commercial space and a 65- to 100-room hotel.

The hotel will be at least three-star class and likely part of the Marriott family or one of its subsidiary chains, officials said.

Michael McKeen, a principal in the EPC partnership, said that decision will come later because they want to build a hotel that will be tailored to the site and the surrounding residential and small-commercial atmosphere, rather than a standard chain hotel.

Steven Coon, a partner in EPC, vowed to use local labor to build the project and to staff the businesses when they open.

“When we build a project like this, it creates hundreds and hundreds of jobs,” Coon said. “Even though we’re the out-of-town choice, it doesn’t mean taking jobs from the local community.”

Longwell cited that commitment as another good reason to support the project.

“I appreciate our new friends with EPC that have shared that not only do they want to invest in Wichita, they want to use local talent and local builders to put in something very significant that’s going to help Wichitans.”

The developers are asking for industrial revenue bonds to exempt them from paying sales tax on their construction materials. The development also seeks a tax increment financing district to help pay for parking improvements and public greenways.

The project area is already part of a STAR bond district, which will divert future increases in sales tax toward plans to replace Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.

Dion Lefler: 316-268-6527, @DionKansas