Wichita developer Jason Van Sickle thinks that Newton's economy is growing, and he's seen a corresponding need for an increase in housing.

Van Sickle is planning to expand the area's housing options by constructing a multi-million, 144-unit apartment complex in the south part of town.

"We are delighted that Jason has decided to do his next project here in Newton," said Tim Johnson, assistant city manager. "He's a very bright, very professional gentleman. He does his market research, he does his housing research. He's familiar with where the city is headed."

Van Sickle plans to offer market-rate, upper-scale apartments, with features like granite countertops, a fitness facility and a pet-friendly environment.

He estimates construction costs will be about $9 million. He's considered constructing the project in two phases but most likely will complete the entire project at one time.

The complex will include 144 units with a mixture of one and two bedroom apartments.

He said the complex will utilize a new concept involving flexible layouts. A quarter of the apartments will be traditional one bedroom apartments, but another quarter will be flexible one bedroom apartments, which means an extra room could be used as an office or a second bedroom. Similarly, a quarter of the total apartments will be traditional two bedroom, and the final quarter will be two bedrooms with a "flexible" room that can be used as a third bedroom.

"That really opens the door to helping out families," Van Sickle said. Renters also could use the extra room to take on an additional roommate, if desired.

Van Sickle hopes to place the complex in the south part of town, near Kansas Avenue. He liked the location's proximity to Newton Medical Center and Wal-Mart, and he foresees this area as a commercial growth area for Newton. He said there is a national trend toward placing apartment complexes within easy walking distance of grocery stores, retail shops and other resources.

"We try to find areas that have that kind of community amenities," he said.

Van Sickle has been working on the project with the city of Newton for about a year. He said one of the challenges he encountered was the differences between the Newton and Wichita housing markets, and the fact the apartment complex would not be taking low-income housing tax credits. However, he said he has found a model he believes will work in Newton.

Van Sickle said he was impressed by Newton's open, inviting attitude and vision for growth.

"The city of Newton is doing a lot of right things to attract people to the community," he said.

Johnson said he thinks the city's ReNewton project and plans for the Kansas Logistics Park made an impact on Van Sickle's decision to come to Newton.

"He could have gone to any number of communities," Johnson said. "... He has a very positive and optimistic perspective on where Newton is headed."