As we approach the end of 2019, Opportunity Zone projects seem to be getting off the ground in Wichita.
There are at least four projects — that we know of publicly — that are underway. Scot Rigby, assistant city manager, said there could be more that investors or developers haven't shared.
And more seem to be brewing.
Rigby said the city has received a number of emails and phone calls from people interested in Opportunity Zones, which are nine tracts of land where investors can gain preferential tax treatment for their investment into lower-income areas. Wichita's nine zones target low-income sections of five general neighborhoods: downtown, north and south of downtown, southeast Wichita and the area around Wichita State University.
The four identified projects so far are all within the downtown tract.
The renewed interest could be because the city recently contracted with a national FUSE Corps fellow, Angeline Johnson, whose role is tocreate a blueprint for effective, multi-stakeholder economic development in the city's zones.
"There's a lot of bubbling interest out in the community," Rigby said. "We hope there's more to come."
The Greater Wichita Partnership has also been an advocating voice for Opportunity Zones, identifying a handful of potential projects in a 34-page publication. That includes Clapp Golf Course in the southeast Wichita tract and the historic Dunbar and Nomar theaters in north Wichita.
Andrew Nave, executive vice president of economic development with the Partnership, couldn't be reached for comment, but provided an emailed statement:
"The Partnership helped promote Opportunity Zones as a new federal economic tool to encourage investment in defined, underserved areas across the country," Nave wrote. "From what we’ve heard from those utilizing the program, there is great interest and evaluation of how the program’s benefits and criteria can be applied to a wide variety of development projects across our city."
Here is a roundup of the four identified projects backed by Opportunity Zone investors.
Crossland Construction has started ground work on the site of a future five-story apartment building called 225 Sycamore on the Delano catalyst site. Kansas City-based EPC Real Estate is developing the project, which includes 200 apartment units, ground-level retail shops and a public greenway. It's expected to finish by June 2021.
EPC has also added plans for a stand-alone commercial building with up to 40,000 square feet at the corner of Sycamore and McLean, directly east of the downtown library. It could include office or retail users.
The project is backed by a handful of investors, including EPC and a firm out of the western U.S.
Home2Suites by Hilton
TGC Group will develop the 95-room Home2Suites by Hilton hotel adjacent to 225 N. Sycamore near the Advanced Learning Library. The $12.5 million project will include about 55,000 square feet. It's designed by 3 Ten Studios and TGC Construction Group will do the construction work.
Home2Suites by Hilton is backed by two investors that are not local.
Crews with Jaco General Contractor have started build-out work at FireWorx, an old fire station in downtown Wichita being converted into a co-working space geared toward startups and small businesses. The $1.3 million project at 500 S. Topeka is from a team of developers — Bruce Rowley and Mike Snyder of RSM Marketing and Alan Banta of Trans Pacific Oil.
NAI Martens has so far leased 60 percent of the building, but Rowley said he couldn't reveal yet who the tenants are. The completion date for the building has been pushed back to late February after some changes requested by the secured tenants.
The Opportunity Zones investors are local but wanted to remain anonymous.
Rowley said he has at least two additional Opportunity Zones projects teed up for 2020.
"We've had a lot of continued interest from investors," he said.
Steel beams are going up at 430 Redevelopment, a $21-million, mixed-use building at Douglas and Emporia that will be anchored by IMA Financial Group. The 70,000 square-foot building will offer ground-level retail and restaurants, and Bradley Tidemann of J.P. Weigand & Sons has started marketing for tenants.
TGC Construction Group and Hutton are partnering on the build, while Shelden Architecture has penned the designs. It's expected to open in November 2020.
There is one investor in the Opportunity Zones project, who is not local.