A much larger than anticipated crowd showed up at an event Tuesday evening to learn about a vision of a revitalized Salina Downtown. Organizers had anticipated about 20 or so people showing up. Instead, there were over 200 who gathered at the Salina Community Theatre to learn about what city manager Jason Gage said was “a unique opportunity of business people taking ownership and investing time, resources, and money back into their community”.
And what exactly are they doing? They have dreams of multiple major projects in a 28 block area of downtown Salina that would redefine and revitalize it.
A proposed field house project, which will be built through an even split of private and public money got the ball rolling. Since then other potential projects, and investors, have been developed. They include:
- A high-end, 120-room, five-story hotel on Mulberry between Santa Fe and Fifth streets built by Salina-based Blue Beacon International.
- Two museums, including the “Wings Over Salina Aviation Experience” and an automobile museum.
- A bowling alley and indoor fun center
Plans also include narrowing Santa Fe from a four-lane street to a three-lane street. Traffic would flow in one lane in each direction, with a center turning lane. The redesign would open up more sidewalk space, thus opening up outdoor seating for downtown businesses.
The projects would be funded through private and public sources. Along with the private funding, a key component would be Star Bonds, and also TIF financing.
Tax increment financing, or TIF, subsidizes companies by refunding or diverting a portion of their taxes to help finance development in an area or on a project site. Star Bonds would have to be approved by the Kansas Legislature.
Local officials are working with the Kansas Department of Commerce to see if Star Bonds are feasible to fund the project. To receive the bonds, a project must meet very specific criteria including things like generating tourism to the area that include 30 percent of new traffic from outside a 100 mile radius, and 20 percent from outside the state.
Supporters are optimistic that such a large project would thrive in Salina, citing a couple of key figures. The regional area that Salina draws traffic from has a population of about 300,000 people, and in 2012, about $1 billion in retail sales was generated.
It could take as little as 60 to 80 days to determine if the project would be Star Bond eligible. If it is, construction could begin in as soon as a year.
As Gage talked about the city’s support of the project, he concluded that the supporters “are not asking for handouts, what they are asking is that the city compliment what they are doing”.