Today was a rough day for the serial critics of the downtown arena and its redevelopment.
The Wichita City Council’s decision to approve tax increment financing for the arena neighborhood’s redevelopment was a welcome vote of confidence in the neighborhood’s future – especially as potential commercial investors sit on the sidelines, fretting about the nation’s economic ills.
The infrastructure the TIF money will finance should serve as a figurative reminder to those investors of Wichita’s commitment to making the arena neighborhood work, a type of seed money to encourage private commercial investment.
But there was a little nugget in there for you Wichitans who loathe walking: $10 million for a parking garage near the arena. The long, silly regional nightmare that has been the arena parking debate may be nearing its end – if the county and USD 259 sign off on the TIF proposal in the next 30 days.
The stakes surrounding the county and school district’s decision are great: In a tight credit climate forcing many commercial investors to the sidelines, the TIF money is an incentive to retailers and club owners to invest themselves in the neighborhood.
Without it, the smartest investment move might be to wait for the economy to moderate – which may well not coincide with the arena’s opening in about 13 months.