Politics & Government

Sedgwick County is open to trading former IRS building

Sedgwick County bought the former IRS building downtown at 271 W. Third St. for $4.9 million last year. (Aug. 13, 2014)
Sedgwick County bought the former IRS building downtown at 271 W. Third St. for $4.9 million last year. (Aug. 13, 2014) File photo

Sedgwick County already has a building for two joint city-county departments, but it’s looking elsewhere.

The county asked this week for proposals from local developers to build or renovate a building to house the city and county’s planning and construction departments under one roof.

It’s also asking if a developer could take the former IRS building, which county officials call the 271 building, off of its hands.

It’s open to trading that building for a different building to house the departments.

“The county is going to consider proposals that developers or Realtors may offer that would include an exchange or transfer of our 271 building,” said Sedgwick County facilities director Steve Claassen.

Sedgwick County bought the former IRS building downtown at 271 W. Third St. for $4.9 million last year. But some commissioners weren’t happy about the price tag to remodel the building and wanted to find a cheaper alternative.

The county is hoping to find a home for the departments through a “way sped-up” timeline for proposals, Claassen said.

“One of the reasons is the obvious need to physically combine the two Sedgwick County and Wichita codes departments into a one-stop place for customers,” Claassen said.

The county request says the Metropolitan Area Builders and Construction Department and Metropolitan Area Planning Department need a building with about 32,941 square feet of space.

The county will consider building options that are farther from downtown Wichita, where several core government buildings are located.

Claassen said the county would also consider proposals that renovate the 271 building at a cheaper cost.

Plans for the 271 building, which is about 92,000 square feet, have been in flux for months. The county originally wanted to put its motor vehicle tag office in the building but looked elsewhere because of parking concerns. County staff proposed putting several county departments in the building.

It would cost the county about $4.6 million to remodel the six-floor building, at $59 per square foot on the inside, according to architectural estimates in June. With interest, the total cost to the county for the building could be in the neighborhood of $15 million.

Some commissioners on the board’s majority said that’s way too much.

“We ought to be aware of (other) options before we pull the trigger on remodeling the 271 building, because this remodeling is almost like buying a whole other building,” commissioner Jim Howell said. “That put us in a corner.”

Commissioners Tim Norton and Dave Unruh said the county got a good deal for the building and wanted to remodel it as planned. With a divided commission, the remodel process stalled and the county began to craft a request for proposals.

“You get all the options side-by-side on the table and you define what you need,” Howell said.

The county is not looking for proposals to find space for other county departments, like the Appraiser’s Office or the the professional standards unit of the Sheriff’s Office. Those were included in plans presented in June.

“That’s not a part of the consideration or it’s not what’s being pitched here,” Claassen said.

Proposals from developers are due Sept. 29. A contract would be negotiated over the following two weeks. The county commissioners are expected to vote on the final contract in mid-October, according to the county’s request.

Reach Daniel Salazar at 316-269-6791 or dsalazar@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @imdanielsalazar.

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