Collaborative promotion will tout Wichita’s downtown offerings

Old Town Association president Jason Van Sickle, right, and vice president Kimberly May. (Jan. 31, 2014)
Old Town Association president Jason Van Sickle, right, and vice president Kimberly May. (Jan. 31, 2014) The Wichita Eagle

Three major elements of Wichita’s downtown – Old Town, the Commerce Art District and the Wichita Downtown Development Corp. – are banding together for a joint marketing effort to promote the area.

It’s a venture to get feet on downtown streets – a single voice touting the entertainment of Old Town, the arts in the Commerce district, and the other services and lifestyle that downtown has to offer. Other districts set for the joint marketing effort include the Douglas Design District, Intrust Bank Arena and WaterWalk.

“Everybody’s been doing their own thing independently in the past. Now everybody’s figuring out how to work together,” said Jason Van Sickle, president of the Old Town Association.

“It’s a collaboration to promote the greater downtown,” said WDDC vice president Jason Gregory. “We’re all good at promoting our individual districts, but what’s good for Old Town is good for Commerce and what’s good for Commerce is good for Douglas Design and so forth.”

“Commerce is kind of tucked away, unique,” said David Farha, one of the developers of the Finn Lofts. “You still get the comments from people with our new businesses down there. ‘Wow. We didn’t know you’re here. It’s cool.’

“We’re not going to be an Old Town. We’re not trying to be. What we are is unique, with a lot more local flair.”

The goal is downtown walkability, said Van Sickle and WDDC president Jeff Fluhr.

“Downtown is really a series of districts, as it should be,” Fluhr said. “Each one offers something unique and that’s what we’re after. Downtown should offer a string of experiences.”

Van Sickle said the time is right to re-examine Old Town’s role, as the entertainment district reviews its own borders and definitions.

“It’s incredibly important that Old Town focus on the safe and exciting aspect that’s our primary focus in the year ahead, redefining what is Old Town in terms of catching up with the growth it’s naturally had,” he said.

“There’s businesses all the way up Douglas to Hydraulic, to Topeka, that have asked to be a part of Old Town. We have focused on what is Old Town, and by its definition it is the old downtown.”

Old Town and the Commerce Art District will be part of the Wichita State University School of Art and Design’s semester design project, with students volunteering more than 100 hours of their time to work on the new marketing plan.

“It really is the first major effort to implement the city’s desire to promote downtown walkability,” Van Sickle said. “It’s the first major effort to say Old Town can be a connecter with Commerce Street and the arena, and possibly down to WaterWalk eventually.”

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