By next spring, the people behind the Lord's Diner hope to turn an empty warehouse in the shadow of an abandoned roller coaster into a haven for Wichita's hungry.
Officials announced Friday that they plan to open a second Lord's Diner near the Planeview neighborhood, at 2825 S. Hillside. The location, just steps from the defunct Joyland amusement park, is the former site of the Bread of Life food pantry.
"This area was identified as not just having a need, but having few other services close by," said Wendy Glick, executive director of the Lord's Diner.
She said she couldn't say when the new diner would be ready. "We still have many, many things to decide between now and when we open," she said. But officials hope to start serving by spring.
The Lord's Diner has purchased the building from Bread of Life, Glick said. Officials would not release the purchase price or other details.
The Lord's Diner feeds the hungry — or anyone who comes for a dinner, no questions asked — downtown at Central and Broadway. It is operated through donations and volunteers. The second location will work the same way, Glick said.
She said the location was chosen because of its proximity to Planeview and other low-income neighborhoods. Just across Hillside from the new site are two of Wichita's poorest schools, where more than 90 percent of students are economically disadvantaged.
Wendy Ratliff, who lives in the area and is a paraprofessional at Colvin Elementary School, welcomed news of the new diner.
"I think it's fantastic," she said. "Times are tough. Our families are not wealthy. Any time they can get a hot meal for their family, it's a good thing. Paychecks don't always last till the end of the month."
Alvin Rose, secretary of the Planeview Neighborhood Association, also said he is "extremely pleased" that the diner is opening in the area.
Nearby residents are used to walking where they need to for goods and services because so many don't have cars, he said. When the diner opens, adults and children will be assured a hot meal every evening.
"I think they're going to be overwhelmed. They're going to have 500 people there every time they open their doors," Rose said. "They're going to be very, very busy."
Glick said officials expect to serve between 250 and 300 people when the diner opens, but that number could rise.
Bishop Michael Jackels, who attended Friday's news conference in the empty warehouse, said the Wichita Diocese is "profoundly grateful" to donors and volunteers who have kept the Lord's Diner going since 2002.
"None of this would be possible without their collaborative effort," he said.
The Lord's Diner serves an average of 500 meals nightly. Each meal includes a salad, soup, entree, vegetable, starch, dessert and beverage. About 10 percent of guests are children.
About a year ago the Lord's Diner withdrew a proposal to open a satellite location at 21st and Grove. That plan drew strenuous opposition from many in the community, including the Wichita Ministerial League, which worried that it would increase crime and hamper revitalization efforts in the neighborhood.
Glick said Friday that she doesn't expect similar opposition to the location on South Hillside.
"We've been invited by individuals in this community to come here and address the needs," she said.
City Council member Lavonta Williams, who had opposed the 21st Street plan but hoped the diner would locate elsewhere in northeast Wichita, said she was happy to hear about the Planeview proposal.
"I know that area, and I know there is a huge, huge need there as well," she said. "I think it's good news."
Williams said she "would welcome the opportunity" to continue discussions with the Lord's Diner about future locations.
"Some in the community understand there is a need, and I understand there is a need," she said. "But there was a concern from the community with it being in that location.
"As long as everyone in the (Planeview) community is in agreement and on board, I think that's a great thing."
Janet Johnson, a neighborhood assistant who works out of the Colvin Neighborhood City Hall, said people she knows are elated by the news. She said a number of initiatives are under way to revitalize the community.
"This just meshes perfectly with them, and could not have come at a better time," she said. "Our families are really struggling out here."