City Council Approves Intent Letter Supporting New Hotel

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A proposal for a new downtown hotel hit a snag at Tuesday's city council meeting. After project developers asked the city to chip in with almost $8 million dollars to help make it happen, not everyone on the council thought it was a good idea.

The historic and still beautiful building at Douglas and Broadway has been sitting vacant in downtown Wichita for more than ten years now. Developer David Burk wants to change that. He's hoping to turn the site into a 117-room boutique hotel with a 144-seat restaurant, along with banquet and meeting rooms.

"This is going to allow us to really kind of see economic activity that we want to see, as we continue to revitalize our downtown that will make it a very viable and economic engine for not only downtown, but also the region as well," Jeff Fluhr, president of Wichita Downtown Development Corporation, said.

The hotel, along with a 282-space parking garage and urban park, would be the first proposal under 'Project Downtown,' the city's downtown master plan. The city would be expected to contribute $7.7 million dollars to the project, and provide tax incentives to the developer.

"I think the project will be beautiful. I think it is something that will be a complement to Wichita. I just don't think it should be done with public funds," Wichita resident Shirley Koehn said.

"When is enough, enough? When is this hog fat enough that he doesn't need the city to pay for every project he's involved in," Wichita resident Craig Gabel asked.

But most council members call this a "win-win" deal saying not only will the development bring in extra property tax money, but tourism and future downtown development. "I consider this as well to be a significant project for downtown, and I don't see this as just benefiting one person, but the city of Wichita," Council member Lavonta Williams said.

The Wichita City Council voted 6-1 on a non-binding letter of intent to support the hotel. Council member Michael O'Donnell opposed the project. A public hearing is set for September 13th. If the project passes the city council, developers say the project should be up and running some time next year.

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