Eagle editorial: Wichita area still moving forward

09/15/2013 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:18 AM

While it logs more layoffs and impatiently waits to see the Great Recession in the rearview mirror, the Wichita area has hardly switched off its economic engine. A drive around town confirms that orange is the new black, with plentiful construction cones and roadblocks making drivers nuts but also signifying progress.

It’s great to see the community forging ahead with improvements both public and private, demonstrating not only its resiliency but also its optimism about the future. While uncertainty churns on at the federal and global levels, the Wichita area is doing its best to keep moving.

The new $101.5 million airport terminal at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport is taking impressive shape on the way to its early 2015 opening, as the construction of a garage and rental-car facility makes parking a frustrating new adventure for many travelers.

West-siders are following the epic $35 million project to build two flyover bridges connecting I-235 to 13th Street on the west side of the Big Ditch.

The expansion of Koch Industries’ headquarters is creating traffic havoc in north Wichita, thanks to the rerouting of 37th Street North, but also raising expectations for the new three-story, 210,000-square-foot office building at the eventual 180-acre complex.

Dust and construction fencing also mark the reshaping of the Wichita State University campus, where a $60 million dorm and dining center for first-year students is going up, the two-year expansion of the $30.6 million Rhatigan Student Center continues, and the north end of Alumni Drive is being transformed into a pedestrian mall.

In downtown Wichita, the first new construction project in 38 years along the core of Douglas, the Kansas Leadership Center, is planning its grand opening next month. The Lux development at First and Market, the Corner 365 apartments at First and Waco, and the Value Place Apartments at Maple and McLean are progressing, with William Street’s two-way conversion and Douglas streetscape improvements starting soon and the River Vista apartments planned for the west bank.

Meanwhile, Botanica is building a new events center, with construction of an adjacent Chinese garden to start in the spring.

Other bridge replacements, road-widening projects and drainage improvements are complicating commuting, especially at Broadway and 34th Street South and along East 13th Street and far-west Central. And drivers near Webb Road are seeing buildings prepped for demolition to make way for – gulp – the next phase of East Kellogg expansion.

“It gives citizens confidence, after the economic challenges, to see that there is progress and improvement taking place,” Sedgwick County Commission Chairman Jim Skelton said Friday, in an e-mail also noting new fire stations opening soon on South Oliver and next year in Haysville.

As we excuse the mess, we should also welcome it.

For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman

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