Despite its diverse membership, the Wichita City Council has been admirably steadfast and unified over the past two years in its commitment to downtown planning, understanding the importance of the health of the city’s heart to the community’s identity and future.
The next big step comes Tuesday, as “Project Downtown: The Master Plan for Wichita” goes to the City Council and Mayor Carl Brewer for formal adoption as an amendment to the city-county comprehensive plan. The Sedgwick County Commission is expected to take up the plan in February.
Both government bodies should give the plan their wholehearted, full-throated support. The blueprint, drafted by Boston-based consultant Goody Clancy with a broad array of public input, captured and framed the community’s dreams for downtown in a way that uniquely reflects its needs and values.
Goody Clancy’s imagined downtown can be realized over the next 15 to 20 years — by attracting as much as $500 million in private-sector investment to be complemented by $100 million in public spending for parking, streets, parks and other infrastructure.
Adoption of the plan won’t obligate the City Council to fund or implement everything within it. But the step will make the blueprint part of the whole area’s planning process, guiding zoning decisions and capital improvement investments.
An array of community voices have endorsed the plan, from the unanimous Wichita-Sedgwick County Metropolitan Area Planning Commission to Visioneering Wichita, the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Young Professionals of Wichita, the Historic Preservation Board and Wichita Independent Neighborhoods.
These groups recognize that a busier, richer core will draw more businesses, people, dollars and opportunities to Wichita, and that downtown matters too much to be left to chance. By adopting the plan Tuesday, the City Council can hasten the day when Wichita’s dream downtown exists not only on paper but in reality.