Letters recently appeared in the Wichita Eagle regarding the proposed Bowllagio project, a west side entertainment destination. Bowllagio is planned to have a bowling and entertainment center, a boutique hotel, and a restaurant owned by a celebrity television chef.
The developers of this project propose to make use of $13 million in STAR bond financing. STAR bonds are issued for the immediate benefit of the developers, with the sales tax collected in the district used to pay off the bonds. The project also proposes to be a Community Improvement District, which allows an additional two cents per dollar to be collected in sales tax, again for the benefit of the district.
Imagine paying your mortgage and taxes for many years, only to get a knock on your door one day. A real estate developer tells you he wants your land.
That’s what happened to a couple on South Maize Road in the boundaries of the proposed Bowllagio sales-tax-and-revenue (STAR) bonds district. They were offered the county-appraised value, plus 10 percent, for their home. But they don’t want to move, as they couldn’t find a comparable property for what the developer offered.
Now the homeowners are concerned they may be forced out of their home through the process of eminent domain. This forceful taking of property by government is one of the worst possible violations of private property rights.
Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said that the city does not intend to use eminent domain for the proposed Bowllagio entertainment complex.
That’s good news. The city can and should affirm this promise by writing it into the Bowllagio authorizing ordinance. Supporting private property rights is essential; the use of public funds for private projects is bad policy.
Susan Oliver Estes
Let developer fill funding gap
Bowllagio’s representative told the Wichita City Council last week that the developer needed $13 million in public money to fill the projected funding shortfall for the project to be economically feasible. I believe the developer needs to dig deeper into his own pocket to fill this funding gap, or seek private venture capital.
As an experienced real estate practitioner, I am aggrieved that the Wichita mayor and City Council members lack the necessary experience to properly evaluate these projects. They have proved to be little match in protecting the public treasury against sophisticated developers accustomed to using the public purse as part of their real estate funding formulas.
The investment of public money in bowling alleys, restaurants, shops and hotels that compete with existing businesses that offer the same services is not a proper role for government to play and is wrong. It creates an unlevel playing field for those businesses that compete in the same market using their own money.
If the Bowllagio development venture is an economically feasible project, the private developer will find the private money he needs to fund it.
John R. Todd