Innovation Center announced

The Wichita Community Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation have awarded $64,000 to the Wichita Downtown Development Corp. for creation of an Innovation Center in downtown Wichita.

Modeled after "Create Here" and the River City downtown development company in Chattanooga, Tenn., the multi-purpose multimedia think tank next door to the WDDC headquarters at 507 E. Douglas will be ground zero for residential and retail recruitment.

But it also will be available for a wide variety of creative pursuits, said WDDC president Jeff Fluhr, as the city seeks to recruit, retain and develop young talent.

"Engaging our community is at the heart of developing a city of distinction, cultivating talent and fostering creativity," Fluhr said.

"This initiative will provide opportunities to translate that vision to reality."

Wichita Community Foundation president Rob Allison said the WDDC project is a perfect fit for his group's mission.

"We began working with the WDDC and getting more familiar, and Jeff wrote a grant that just hit exactly what Knight is trying to accomplish," Allison said. "This grant is a great fit for all three partners."

To leverage the grant, WDDC board members Joe Johnson and Bill Livingston, both Wichita architects, will lead a fundraising drive to match the $64,000 figure.

In addition to downtown redevelopment, the venue will be available for individual arts, education and social groups to meet and discuss downtown redevelopment.

The downtown storefront, once a real estate office, also offers window frontage along Douglas for project displays, Fluhr said.

It will include the latest in interactive video and computer technology to allow the WDDC to utilize design experts and interns from across the region.

Tim de Noble, dean of the College of Architecture, Planning and Design at Kansas State University, said his faculty and students will take an active role in Wichita's downtown through the Innovation Center.

"I want our college to have more of a presence in the education of our students, to be more involved in the most economically viable city in Kansas," de Noble said.

"I'm not taking anything away from the professionals there. This grant and the possibility of the things Jeff is doing give us a chance to get our students and faculty to have a presence in Wichita."

Work will begin immediately on the Innovation Center, with the goal of a mid-summer opening, Fluhr said.