Even without STAR bonds, Bowllagio is asking a lot

The proposed Bowllagio mixed-use development at Kellogg and Maize Road is back on the Wichita City Council agenda after two years, with developer Jay Maxwell asking for the local public incentive of pay-as-you-go tax-increment financing. The project is no longer seeking state approval of sales-tax-and-revenue bonds. The promoters argued in 2010 that the development would be a regional draw for bowling events and a boost for tourism, persuading the council to set up a community improvement district in which a higher sales-tax could be charged and its proceeds used to help pay development costs. It would be great to see the problematic floodplain site, now an unsightly collection of dirt mounds and weeds, finally put to productive use. The big question for council members, as they decide whether to schedule a Nov. 20 public hearing, is whether Bowllagio is worthy of another TIF district, where increased tax revenue can be used to pay for eligible public improvement costs. Other TIF districts have underperformed in recent years, and the Sedgwick County Commission has resisted going along with them. It’s going to be especially tough to justify such a public incentive if the owners of other area bowling alleys are as united in fierce and vocal opposition to the project as they were two years ago.