Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Kirk Humphrey's name
Former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys, the second of three mayors who presided over the growth of the citys downtown Bricktown entertainment, sports and office district, will be the keynote speaker for this falls Wichita Downtown Development Corp. lecture luncheon series.
Humphreys will speak at an 11:30 a.m. luncheon Nov. 14 at the Lux. The Lux, at First and Market downtown, is the former home of Kansas Gas and Electric Co that last housed the Protection One office complex. The 1954 building is being converted into luxury apartments and commercial space.
Humphreys expertise with a successful downtown renovation will be a valuable part of Wichitas ongoing work renovating its downtown, Jeff Fluhr, the WDDC president, said.
It was his tenure that you started to see the bricks and mortar going in Oklahoma City, Fluhr said. Theyve done what they said they were going to do and theyve displayed good stewardship of the sales tax money they received.
Humphreys, 62, is the president of The Humphreys Co., an Oklahoma City firm he founded in 1989 that specializes in the development of urban communities. His projects include Carlton Landing, a 1,600-acre city development on Lake Eufaula in southeastern Oklahoma, and The Waterfront, a redevelopment project on the site of the former Downtown Airpark on the Oklahoma River in downtown Oklahoma City.
He was elected mayor of Oklahoma City in 1998, and is one of three city mayors credited with shepherding the successful MAPS projects through the city. The projects, financed by an ongoing city sales tax, grew out of then-Mayor Ron Noricks frustration with several failed economic development initiatives. They focused initially on Bricktown development, including Chesapeake Energy Arena and the Bricktown Ballpark, and later on improvement of the citys schools.
Humphreys will be accompanied during the Wichita visit by his son, Blair, who is executive director of the Institute for Quality Communities at the University of Oklahoma.
Humphreys also will be meeting with local developers and designers to, as Fluhr put it, go back to the core messages of downtown quality of place, quality of opportunity and quality of talent.
My message from Oklahoma City is more or less how to put the pieces together, Humphreys said. Its not enough to have a good vision. Lots of people all over the country have a good vision, but they dont know how to get it done.
Bricktown is a story, Humphreys said, of a good vision followed by a city council that delivered on what it promised.
The key for your success or anyones is trust, he said. You have to deliver what you promised, and not only deliver that, but you have to deliver what meets peoples needs. Its not a simple thing to get people to tax themselves for things they need and want, and its impossible for something like a drainage project.
He recalls an old county jail project in Oklahoma City pockmarked by disaster, most notably the ability prisoners discovered to chip out mortar, remove opaque glass blocks from the walls and shinny down the walls to freedom.
With everything weve accomplished, people are still talking about that jail, he said. Failure is hard to overcome.
Humphreys also will take on the politics of downtown redevelopment. Wichita Mayor Carl Brewers redevelopment plans have met with strong conservative opposition.
I am a businessman. I am a Republican and I consider myself a conservative, he said. Im probably not angry like some of these folks are, but when people attack the city for spending money in this environment, my answer is that conservatives invest. Any smart businessman understands that there is a time when you invest in your business: new equipment, new plants, new initiatives.
It is not an unwise move for a fiscal conservative to invest in something that will bear fruit. Its a smart thing to do, and thats what weve done. As long as we continue to deliver, our voters will support us and trust us. If we invest wrong, if we fail to deliver, then thats where we are in trouble.