WICHITA, Kansas – A $54 million project paid for by a private developer could soon change the face of downtown. That’s if the city council approves a tax increment finance district, or TIF district, to reimburse part of that investment.
The 100 year old Union Station and 4 nearby buildings could be the site of a TIF district, where a portion of the tax money created by developing the area will help pay for a portion, about $17 million of the $54 million worth of renovations.
Developer Gary Oborny of Occidental Management says his firm is taking all of the risk. Oborny has been researching the site for a few years and is ready to move forward.
“What we’re doing is we are doing a pay as you go which basically means we do all the financing ourselves and then we are reapportioned that money over a 20 year period though property tax reimbursement,” Oborny said.
Supporters say the goal is to increase foot traffic and get people to walk across the street from popular Old Town to the 9 acre site which will have retail shops and restaurants. The ultimate goal is connecting Union Station to the arena district.
“It’s iconic it’s a building and facility that people in this community know, union station so again to see that brought back into a new vital use one that’s contributing to development downtown is really important to us as we go forward,” said Jeff Fluhr of Wichita Downtown Development Corporation.
The buildings are on an historic registry list…making renovations more expensive. The project could ultimately give new life to Union Station, which has now sat empty for more than 6 years.
A public hearing on the creation of the TIF district is set for October 7. The developer hopes to break ground before the end of the year. The second phase of the project would take about about 18 months to complete.