OSAWATOMIE — A Sedgwick County developer has secured a steal of a deal, courtesy of the Wichita City Council.
WaterWalk LLC paid less than $100 to lease a plot of land that originally was planned to become a parking lot but now may be the future site of a multi-million dollar apartment complex.
City officials Tuesday approved an amended ground lease, which allows the lessee to improve the property while the city retains ownership, for a 4.4 acre plot on the west side of the Arkansas River north of Kellogg Avenue.
WaterWalk LLC, the chief developer for the city’s decade-spanning downtown makeover, requested the change to the lease.
The land was not part of the original deal brokered in 2002, when city officials outlined plans for the WaterWalk development project, which called for the development of about 20 acres on the east bank of the Arkansas River north of Kellogg Avenue.
The city added the 4.4 acres to the WaterWalk project in 2004 and leased it to WaterWalk LLC for 93 years at only $1 per year. As part of the deal, the developer had to cut a check for $93 up front.
Wichita is expected to benefit from the apartment complex because of the taxes it will generate. The land has sat empty and unused since the city acquired it in 1994.
The new lease is also a good deal for WaterWalk LLC and its owner, developer Jack DeBoer. WaterWalk LLC has put the location up for bid, offering to sell its exclusive rights to develop the apartment complex for $1,153,344.
Vice Mayor Janet Miller said the company is within its rights to do so.
“We have already a signed 93 year agreement,” Miller said. “It’s not an option to not lease it to them.”
DeBoer did not return calls for comment.
Allen Bell, director of Urban Development for the City of Wichita, said the bargain lease rate – $1 per year for 93 years – was an alternative to just giving the land away, and served as an incentive to encourage development on the land. The Sedgwick County appraiser’s office has valued the land at $479,000.
Local blogger Bob Weeks criticized the City Council’s decision.
“This contributes to the attitude and appearance of cronyism as the Wichita way,” Weeks said, addressing the City Council. “People don’t like crony capitalism, they know it doesn’t work.”
Contact Travis Perry at firstname.lastname@example.org.