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Archive for Friday, September 5, 2014

Sedgwick County approves money for WSU project

September 5, 2014, 8:47 a.m. Updated September 5, 2014, 9:37 a.m.

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Journal-World's Chad Lawhorn wonders how Wichita State's new project might affect KU's similar plans to build up businesses, in the Aug. 18 edition of Town Talk.

The Sedgwick County Commission has approved a funding mechanism to allow Wichita State University to start construction on a $43 million Experiential Building, the first building in a proposed multi-million dollar, 20-year plan that would transform the university's campus.

The "experiential engineering" building would provide labs, offices and high-tech equipment for entrepreneurs, students and researchers. It would be followed by a new business school and innovation building to anchor what is called the Innovation Campus.

The county commission on Wednesday approved a university request to use some money from property taxes to back bonds to erect buildings. A 1.5 mill levy raises about $6.2 million annually from property taxes, which has been used for scholarships. Wichita State needed the county's permission to use some of that money to construct the new building, The Wichita Eagle reported.

The vote change will not increase property taxes or reduce the number of scholarships, said Andy Schlapp, Wichita State's governmental relations director.

Sedgwick County's Public Building Commission will sell bonds to erect the experiential building, roads connected to it and other facilities, said Chris Chronis, the county's chief financial officer. The building commission will own the buildings and lease them to the university, using the mill levy money to pay down principal and interest on the bonds.

The Experiential Building would be the first building in a proposal by President John Bardo that would add up to 20 new buildings and increase the size of the campus by about 50 percent during the next 20 years. He is proposing the university, community and businesses erect buildings, residence halls and apartments for retirees on campus, along with amenities such as a hotel, another student center and walking trails.

The goal of the project is to provide a place for businesses and the university to work together on research and development to increase innovation and entrepreneurial projects, while also training the students for jobs in the business sector.

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