St. Francis benches may take on different perspective

06/25/2014 5:53 PM

06/26/2014 8:42 AM

There’s only one thing that bothers Coleman Lockett, owner of Bite Me BBQ at 132 N. St. Francis, who is otherwise a proponent of the public-private efforts that have revitalized a two-block stretch of North St. Francis where his restaurant sits.

It’s the park benches placed along the sidewalks.

Don’t misunderstand: He likes the benches, but he doesn’t like the fact that instead of facing the street, the benches face the buildings.

“They did a great job on St. Francis,” Lockett said. “The only thing I don’t like is why they put the park benches backwards.”

Scott Knebel, Wichita-Sedgwick County Metropolitan Planning Department’s downtown revitalization manager, said there is a reason for that.

There are some portions of the sidewalk where, if the benches faced the street, the bumpers of parked cars would come “uncomfortably close” to the benches.

“It was easier and cheaper for us to have the contractor flip them all instead of picking and choosing” which benches to leave facing the street, Knebel said.

In retrospect, he said, that’s probably what should have been done.

But Knebel hopes that a project out to bid – for building a number of covered bus stops along Douglas with backless benches – could be the solution. The plan would be to swap some of the backless benches with the ones on St. Francis where street-facing benches are impossible.

“We’re intending to do that, assuming we can get the (bus stop) project bid,” he said.

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