‘I believe they’re poorly prepared’: KBOR begrudgingly approves WSU’s buyback of The Flats, Suites


Selena Favela

The Flats private apartment complex is located on Innovation Campus.

After postponing the vote for Wichita State to buy back and bond The Flats and The Suites twice, the Kansas Board of Regents approved the motion Wednesday, but not before admonishing the university for its handling of the situation.

Regents argued that WSU “blew smoke” in their face with their buyback cost-saving estimates. The Flats and The Suites are privately-owned campus housing apartments owned by MWCB, LLC. Former Regent David Murfin owns a quarter of the company.

“I’m not sure Wichita State knows what it takes to own and operate these buildings,” Regent Mark Hutton said.

Hutton argued that the university left out other costs, such as building refurbishments, in their savings estimates. The university initially said that over a 25-year-long bond, the university would save half-a-million dollars a year. 

“I believe they’re poorly prepared. I don’t believe that they provide adequately for maintenance reserves or their cost of refurbishing these facilities over the next 25 years,” Hutton said. “The savings assumes a 2% in annual increase in room rates, but yet they say they’re going to hold them flat for three years. 

“I’ve seen no pro forma that’s based on actual room rents and actual operating costs on this. All they’ve done is, is projected if they would have continued the master lease provisions with the current landlord and what they would have paid for that, and compared that against the cost of ownership of the building with, I believe, poor foresight.”

Hutton also said holding rent flat doesn’t make sense with the building’s current financial situation.

“It currently loses money, today, and so I’m trying to figure out how they’re going to fix that and still hold rent flat as well as what it’s going to cost them to operate these things,” he said.

“I’m not too sure Wichita State really knows what it’s going to take to opt to own and operate these buildings.”

Regent Jon Rolph agreed with Hutton’s assessment, citing that a few years ago, the university used the exact opposite reasoning to argue for the buildings being privately-owned.

“I’ll say the other thing has been confusing is the arguments that come so strongly from the university of why it’s right to buy it — the total opposite of what was being said to this body four or five years ago when they created the plan to have a third party build it,” Rolph said. “The truth is this probably should have been structured as a lease purchase from the beginning.”

The regents ultimately voted in favor of the motion, concluding that it fit the mission of the university to own the buildings and retain more students through a “robust residence life.”