Occidental Management has made a conditional use request to the city that would allow alcohol and live music on the plaza in front of Union Station downtown.
“We want to have that as a public gathering space,” says Chad Stafford, Occidental’s president.
Occidental has a $54 million plan for the redevelopment and expansion of Union Station that includes renovating the property’s four buildings and adding 150,00 square feet with the expansion of one building and the addition of two more.
The variance would allow for entertainment and drinks in the plaza area in front of the former terminal building and at some steel-and-glass structures that will be built at the wall to the west of the building where restaurant areas will be.
“The goal is to have real free-flow walkability,” Stafford says.
He says it’s all part of the plan for downtown. Stafford says there will be “sort of a vortex of action between Old Town and Intrust Bank Arena.”
The conditional use request is on the planning commission’s agenda for Thursday.
There are some things to work through before it’s approved, though.
“There’s always things that aren’t just exactly cookie cutter,” Stafford says. “You just have to make sure that everybody’s comfortable with what you’re doing there.”
Wichita Downtown Development president Jeff Fluhr says Occidental Management is trying to create life where currently there is none.
“How do you infuse it with vibrancy?” he says.
Entertainment, food and drink possibilities are one option, he says. Fluhr says the new life will help with connectivity between areas downtown.
But will those areas – Old Town to Union Station to the arena – ever be connected in a way that could lead to one big party? Could people take their drinks from place to place one day, at least during some events?
“Well, that certainly is a much larger conversation and one that we’d have to work through a number of things,” Fluhr says.
He says some places around the country – think the French Quarter, for instance – have areas with that option.
“We’d have to really examine … how would that work?”
Fluhr adds, though, he’s “not opposed to having the conversation.”