Rebirth of Wichita’s Union Station begins

Wichita's Union Station (KSN Photo)

WICHITA, Kansas – A $54 million renovation and expansion of Wichita’s Union Station officially begins Thursday.

A groundbreaking ceremony was scheduled for Thursday afternoon to mark the start of the project. The redevelopment is expected to take about 2½ years.

The building, which opened in 1914, has been vacant since 2007.

The project includes renovating the existing four buildings. The expansion will include two new buildings and a 150,000-square foot expansion on another. Plans call for retail, restaurant and office areas in the area.

The Union Station project is being helped by the city, thanks to what’s called a TIF district.

In 2002, the groundbreaking for an expansion of Old Town would become the Warren Theatre, a public parking garage, and extra retail and restaurant space.

This is a TIF, or Tax Increment Financing district.  That means property taxes for the businesses in that area, are frozen at 1999 levels, the year the TIF was approved, as an incentive for these businesses to grow.

After a period of time, in Old Town’s case, 20 years, the businesses will have to pay taxes at the current and improved level.

The idea is that the city eventually gets back the tax money it lost for all those years, in return for all that development.

Has it worked?

A report out in September of 2014 finds that the value of that area was expected to be $14.5 million, but the 2013 value was $10.9 million.

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