Council made a risky bet

Five members of the Wichita City Council gave Real Development a vote of confidence Tuesday, as they made a total of $10.3 million in tax-increment financing for the Exchange Place complex contingent on some details coming together.

In doing so, they had to put aside the sobering concerns expressed in a Wichita State University assessment — as well as their better judgment, in our view.

And council members should not make a habit of spontaneously negotiating their own numbers with developers during meetings — though council member Sue Schlapp's gambit admittedly saved the deal Tuesday, helping get Real Development to bring $900,000 more to the project.

The testimonials by tenants and other downtown stakeholders clearly were a factor, shoring up Real Development's credibility in urgently requesting more TIF dollars than approved earlier.

And you can't blame city leaders for wanting to believe in what the "Minnesota Guys" promise to do with their Exchange Place complex, including 230 apartments targeted for conversion into condos, 240 spaces in a high-tech garage, and retail space. Everybody seems to agree that downtown Wichita has benefited from Real Development's downtown buying blitz since 2005, and that Exchange Place would be a great addition to the city's heart.

But if the revenues and even the projects don't pan out, citizens won't just blame Real Development. They'll also blame City Council members, who won't be able to say they weren't warned.