The Project Downtown master plan for Wichita is serving as an effective vision and strategy for downtown development. The plan is yielding an urban core under transformation, and its vibrancy is becoming increasingly tangible every day.
Since the plan’s adoption in 2010, we are seeing remarkable growth in downtown’s residential base, new commercial uses are transforming previous parking lots and vacant buildings, and there is an emerging retail, restaurant and entertainment base that is cultivating an energy that is uniquely Wichita.
The recently released 2016 State of Downtown Report captures a number of the transformations underway.
▪ In the past decade, total investment in downtown, including projects currently under construction, now exceeds $1 billion.
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▪ The residential market is on track to double the number of units over the next five to seven years.
▪ Intersections such as Market and Douglas are being transformed through projects such as The Douglas, the pop-up urban park and the CorTen building.
▪ Union Station, a downtown landmark, is emerging as its own distinctive district, complementing Old Town and Intrust Bank Arena.
▪ River Vista will bring heightened enjoyment and utilization of our riverfront with the incorporation of added amenities such as boat and bike rentals.
We are seeing an increase in project scale and capital investment. Due diligence is currently underway on the redevelopment of the former Finney State Office Building. The Spaghetti Works building has been purchased, and the development team is in the design phase. The Hyatt is in the process of being sold by the city, and there are increased conversations about the opportunities our riverfront may further yield.
Deliberate actions are being taken to ensure projects build upon each other; for each project to contribute toward the larger vision of a vibrant downtown. We continue to cultivate opportunities by focusing on key strategies and working together to accelerate them to realize the community’s vision for downtown.
The progress realized to date is evolving and elevating the discussion of downtown development into new areas: the importance of downtown’s connectivity to surrounding neighborhoods, its contribution to regional development and its increasing role in talent retention and attraction.
The future holds great promise and opportunities for downtown, the city and region. However, we must remain focused, continue to align our resources and execute development strategies with an increasing sense of urgency.
Jeff Fluhr is the president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation and the Greater Wichita Partnership.