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Downtown group receives $75,000 grant for Douglas railroad underpass

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, at 12:36 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, at 12:40 p.m.

Grant money will jump-start plans to renovate the dingy walking paths under the Douglas Avenue railroad bridge, a central spot for walkers headed to Old Town or Intrust Bank Arena.

The Wichita Downtown Development Corp. will receive $75,000 from the Wichita Community Foundation’s Knight Foundation Fund to begin the planning and design process for the underpass.

WDDC president Jeff Fluhr said the design team for the project will be assembled in December, including a lead architect.

“And then we’ll be ready to move forward in 2014 to get the design done and secure the capital dollars to implement the community’s vision for this important structure downtown,” he said.

The project targets the dark, filthy, brick-lined walkway under the railroad bridge that crosses Douglas, home to hundreds of pigeons.

It’s the latest cooperative project between the local foundation, Knight and the WDDC.

“We’re excited about the continued partnership with Knight,” Fluhr said. “It’s a new opportunity to partner with them to look at the physical landscape of how we develop downtown.”

The tentative plan is to “activate” the foot traffic under the old railroad bridge with electronic interactive signs, art, advertisements and lighting to bring the walkway in line with positive moves made by the city and investors along Douglas.

Fluhr envisions a series of electronic interactive boards on the white walls underneath the bridge. Those boards could tell downtown walkers the events of the day or week and gauge their opinions on possible downtown changes.

It’s a project that would retain the historic structural qualities of the bridge, while driving away the birds with an organic substance that would not harm them. The ideas come from an eclectic collection of American cities, from the electronic signage of New York to Des Moines’ successful battle against pigeons.

Reach Bill Wilson at 316-268-6290 or bwilson@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @bwilsoneagle.

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