Mayor Jeff Longwell is clarifying some comments he made about the future of the empty Gander Mountain Building and said it’s only a possibility that a tenant bringing 700 jobs will come to the area.
“My point is in being transparent is we were briefly updated by the city manager that they are in some kind of talks,” said Mayor Longwell. “There could potentially be up to 700 jobs. We don’t know what kind of jobs they are. They’re in negotiations. Now we heard from Jack DeBoer that maybe those negotiations failed. That’s the update.”
Mayor Longwell was clearly frustrated in the weekly Mayorwatch meeting on Thursday (Mar. 21) while explaining his comment made at Tuesday’s (Mar. 19) city council meeting.
The mayor originally said a tenant would be moving into the former Gander Mountain building at WaterWalk and it would bring 700 jobs to downtown Wichita.
“I don’t believe it does this community any good to continually cite the failings of WaterWalk,” said Mayor Longwell. “No one wants to associate with a failure.”
He couldn’t say what business would possibly go in the vacant building. Longwell said he hasn’t been given those details, but he was consistent with asking the community to stop calling WaterWalk a failure.
“That needs to stop, community,” said Mayor Longwell. “If we’re going to come together and promote Wichita, we need to quit this notion that we have a failure and it’s going to remain a failure for 32 more decades. That needs to stop.”
Longwell’s mother lives in the mutli-hundred thousand dollar condos across from the empty facility.
He said he understands the frustration of residents who were hoping it would be surrounded by retail shops, restaurants and more, a promise made by former city leaders more than a decade ago.
“I get it that people have invested,” said Mayor Longwell. “People want to see something grow there.”
Longwell said things will be different with the developments downtown including the new baseball stadium.
He said the city has reconstructed agreements with safeguard and performance guaranteed in place to make sure the plans are successful.