Foundation unveils plans for new buildingBy Bill Wilson
The Wichita Eagle
The Kansas Health Foundation unveiled architectural plans Thursday for its 36,000-square-foot, $8.6 million downtown expansion.
The new facility will be formally named the Kansas Leadership Center and Kansas Health Foundation Conference Center.
The three-story building will be built in what is now the foundation’s parking lot on the corner of Douglas and Topeka. It is part of downtown’s first full block of projects since the passage 15 months ago of Project Downtown, the city’s plan for downtown revitalization.
The expansion joins work on the Ambassador Hotel, and the retail and office revival of the old Henry’s building by Slawson Cos.
Preliminary plans call for groundbreaking this summer, with a year of construction.
The facility will be the new statewide headquarters for the Kansas Leadership Center, an organization launched by the foundation in 2005.
Steve Coen, president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Health Foundation, said the expansion drive got its start almost 20 years ago.
“Back in the early 1990s, we started looking seriously at leadership development as a result of some tours around the state asking people about the leading health issues,” Coen said.
“As we delved deeper … we heard that these communities don’t have the leaders with the skills to address these issues. They didn’t have new leaders coming up in their communities. So we began developing leadership programs from that time.”
The building’s design emphasizes bringing Kansans together for multiple purposes, featuring flexible meeting space for conferences, large group meetings, small gatherings, lectures and leadership training.
It also includes a town hall-type meeting space for 200 people and two classrooms with capacity for 50 in each room. Lobby areas in the building will be designed for small group gatherings, and there will be open areas for additional meeting space or presentations.
A courtyard will be positioned between the foundation and leadership center offices, allowing visitors access to the main entrances of each organization.
“Our goal was to create, in essence, a living room for the state, a place where Kansans can gather, challenge each other and team together,” said Ed O’Malley, president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Leadership Center, in a statement.
The KLC brings about a thousand Kansans a year to the headquarters for leadership training. In addition, other meetings and conferences will be held there, including alumni meetings. The organization has more than 1,500 alumni throughout Kansas.
Jeff Fluhr, president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp., said the new building fits the Project Downtown plan perfectly, from the project itself to the visitors it will bring downtown.
“It’s demonstrating the vision outlined in the plan,” Fluhr said. “The design is distinctive and it will elevate the … character of Douglas, and it’s the first new construction along the core in 38 years and it’ll serve as a catalyst for future projects.”Reach Bill Wilson at 316-268-6290 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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