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Seven-story WaterWalk Place to start taking shape

Wednesday, January 10 2007 12:00 AM
By Dan Voorhis
The Wichita Eagle

WaterWalk took a big step forward on Thursday as Key Construction quietly started work on the project's biggest building.

The seven-story building, called WaterWalk Place, will house condominiums, a parking garage, offices and retail space. The building is set for completion in May 2008.

It will run along Main Street between Waterman and Kellogg, to the east of the Gander Mountain store.

"The partners and the city are very excited about the next phase going into the ground," said Tom Johnson, president of WaterWalk.

The 48 condominiums will range from 1,200 square feet to 4,600 square feet. The units will start at $180,000.

On the first floor of the building will be 12,000 square feet of office space and 16,000 square feet of retail space.

Also on the first floor, the Greater Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau has signed a letter of intent for its new location.

Bureau officials liked the building's visibility and accessibility, said bureau president John Rolfe. The center will include a shop selling Wichita-labeled merchandise.

The 500-space parking garage will have space for residents, tenants and the general public. It is being paid for by the city of Wichita.

At the end of the month, WaterWalk will reach another milestone: Johnson will finally announce exact construction schedules for the project's first phase. That phase includes WaterWalk Place, buildings for Saddle Ranch Chop House and the Wichita Area Association of Realtors, plus city-funded amenities such as the water fountains and amphitheater.

WaterWalk has had trouble attracting tenants in the past because it lacked a schedule that businesses could count on, Johnson said.

Since 2002, delays have stemmed from disputes with the city over funding, design changes, uncertainty over a location for the downtown arena, and the amount of sewer and street work on the site.

Gander Mountain has been alone on the 25-acre site since it opened 18 months ago.

"We're anxious to get some neighbors in the area," said store manager Todd Barker.

With construction actually starting on the buildings, there should be more of an air of optimism about the project, said Mayor Carlos Mayans.

"We have gotten a lot of the incertitude because the infrastructure was not in place and because of the rerouting of streets, but we've put most of that behind us," he said. "We are going to start seeing buildings being built, so I'm very happy about that."

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