Wichita Exchange Place project passes

At today’s meeting of the Wichita City Council, final approval of the city’s involvement in a downtown Wichita development passed.

The item, which appeared on the consent agenda, was the second reading for the ordinances that authorize the Exchange Place Project, including the expansion of its tax increment financing district.

(A consent agenda is a group of items that will be voted on in bulk with a single vote. An item on a consent agenda will be discussed only if a council member requests the item to be “pulled.” If that is done, the item will be voted on separately. Generally, consent agenda items are considered by the city to be non-controversial, but that is not always the case.)

Council Member Lavonta Williams wanted to know more about the change to the parking plan. On Saturday reporting by the Wichita Eagle’s Brent Wistrom told of how the number of parking spaces that will be available to the public has declined as the project plan has evolved: “Now the proposed garage near Douglas and Market would have only 64 spaces saved for public parking. That’s down from 103 promised earlier this month, which was down from the 149 projected in March. Meanwhile, the number of spaces reserved for apartment tenants increased from 195 to 209.”

The availability of additional public parking spaces in downtown was one of the major reasons cited by city council members as a reason for approving the Exchange Place project.

Assistant City Manager Cathy Holderman asked Pat Ayers, a former Key Construction executive, to respond to the question. He said that the unique aspects of the proposed garage actually increased the number of parking spaces available during the work day, as residents of the apartments drive their cars to work.

(City manager Bob Layton, although present at the meeting, is not able to participate in this matter due to a conflict of interest.)

Is this a deviation from what was originally planned, asked Williams? Yes, was the reply from Ayers.

Vice Mayor Jeff Longwell asked Holdeman about a safeguard in place for this project, a ten percent “retainage.” Ayers replied that this provision is in effect for this project. But Council Member Paul Gray said a retainage is common to construction contracts, and that it simply ensures that the contractor completes the job, not the sustainability of the project.

There was mention of the fact that payments will be made directly to vendors, not to Real Development, the developers of the project. This is a reminder of the peculiar arrangement where the city is placing a huge bet of the success of downtown Wichita redevelopment in the hands of the principals behind Real Development, but evidently we don’t trust them enough to write them a check and be confident they will pay their bills.

The measure passed with Gray and Jim Skelton voting against the measure, as they did last week.

Other reporting is at Downtown condo project gets final approval.

3 Comments

  • Who is Pat Ayers representing? As a former executive with Key Construction , a company that is involved in almost all the city approved downtown subsidy projects, what is Ayer’s role? To my knowledge the Eagle has not identified him nor has the Council required him to identify his authority. Perhaps I have missed something?
    Does anyone know?

  • Karen, Mr. Ayers left Key Construction and took a job with Real Development. Ayers used to be the numbers guy for Key, but they let him go to cut cost. Key Construction has done much of the work for Real Development but has not been paid. The taxpayer’s dollars that RD is receiving will help pay their past due bills. Ayers’ job is to help “rip off the City’s taxpayers” at City hall.

  • Thank you, Mayor Brewer and City Council, for continuing to provide taxpayer’s funds to RD so that the contractors and property owners can finally get paid.

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