Campaign will bring Wichitans’ civic improvement ideas to life

03/02/2014 7:59 AM

03/02/2014 7:59 AM

In a couple of months, Wichitans should start to see tangible results of the Together Wichita 2014 initiative.

Together Wichita is a community-wide campaign supported by 22 local companies and organizations aimed at celebrating and enhancing the city by supporting projects suggested by residents.

Heather Denker, Together Wichita project manager, and Kim Nussbaum, president and publisher of The Wichita Eagle, one of the 22 partners, said the group expects to select the first project in the next month or two.

Denker said Together Wichita has received 24 suggestions since the initiative was launched in January. Suggestions have come through mail, personal contact with members of the board of directors and through the website, www.togetherwichita2014.com.

“We have had great feedback,” Denker said. “We would certainly like to see more.”

Nussbaum said the Together Wichita visibility campaign that has included print advertisements and billboards will also start to profile different people who live in the community, maintaining the theme “I live here, I love it!”

She said suggestions submitted so far fit in the broader categories of quality of life, economic development and children and families.

One of the project ideas that has been submitted is to “spruce up” I-135 between Kellogg and K-96. Another is the creation of more bicycle lanes and paths. A third is the construction of a multi-purpose venue along the river that could be used for such events as a farmers market, concerts and art fairs.

The idea is to get more ideas such as these for the initiative, they said. The projects that are selected will be paid for by the partner companies.

There is no set number of projects that the group hopes to fund, Denker and Nussbaum said.

Projects will be selected based on a number of guidelines, including whether they can be enjoyed for generations, are broad in scope in terms of age, diversity and geography, and demonstrate a “welcoming” community.

“We want to make sure that we are selecting the projects that have the biggest impact on the community,” Denker said. “The plan is to hopefully get all of these done in 2014.”

Patrick Goebel, president of partner company Star Lumber & Supply, said his company is participating in part because 2014 is Star’s 75th anniversary.

“We saw it as a golden opportunity to join up with a lot of other companies we have a ton of respect for,” Goebel said. “And we kind of have a tradition of trying to give back to the communities that have served us.”

Denker hopes that the initiative, like the projects it will fund, lasts beyond 2014.

“Our hope is that this year’s project is so successful that we’ll see others who want to step up and continue this into future years,” she said. “To me, this is all about how can we continue to emotionally attach people to the community.”

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