By Anne Meyer
KWCH 12 Eyewitness News
5:26 PM CST, December 18, 2012
The Minnesota guys are out, now a new developer is taking over the Exchange Place project in downtown Wichita.
The building on Douglas and Market has been vacant more than a decade. Now the project could be finished by 2015, if it gets federal tax funding.
Plans call for Exchange Place to become 230 apartments, a grocery store, a rooftop restaurant and entertainment area and a new high-tech parking garage.
"So downtown will come back alive at that corner again," said Wichita Attorney Harvey Sorensen.
Sorensen represents John McWilliams, a developer from Park City, Utah. He just took over the project from Real Development, better known as the Minnesota guys.
"The Real Development guys, as you know, are liquidating some of their assets here and are focusing their attention on the Wichita Executive Center and the Sutton building."
But to start building on exchange place, McWilliams' needs federal funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development or HUD. McWilliams has a history with those type of developments.
"He's built over 5000 residential units, both HUD and non-HUD. and some commercial units," Sorenson said.
That's a big reason why Wichita City Council members approved the developer change.
"The other changes relate to securing the City's financial position and we've done that by adding a $1 million cash escrow," said Wichita Economic Development Director Alan Bell.
Bell says this new deal also asks for less tax help from the City, $9.3 million. One million less than the original plan.
"It will certainly help the City and it's ability to pay for all of this without having to dip into general city funds," Bell said.
If all goes well with the HUD money, construction could begin as early as June. Developers say it will take 2 years to complete the building.
The HUD request still needs approval from the regional office, before it heads to Washington D.C. for final approval. Sorensen says that should happen by summer.
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