Landscape architecture students to help with Wichita’s downtown development

A group of about 20 landscape architecture students from Kansas State University will be in Wichita this week to assist with downtown development.

Jeff Fluhr, president of Wichita Downtown Development Corp., said the four-day visit that begins Friday will be the group’s first of three trips to Wichita in the next four months.

Their task will be to look at eight “catalyst sites” – or city-owned parcels of land – within downtown and come up with designs for uses of those parcels, be it public squares, parks, parking or other potential uses.

Fluhr and Jason Gregory, WDDC executive vice president, said Tuesday that the students’ final designs for the sites may or may not come to fruition.

The students’ designs, which will be presented as illustrations, could be used to market to private developers or provide private developers with ideas for their own projects.

“Ultimately we want … these sites to be looked at in greater detail than that (downtown) master plan allowed,” Gregory said.

Fluhr said he sees the work by the students as an opportunity to update the master plan and reflect the downtown projects completed and started since the downtown master plan was adopted by the city council in December 2010.

“(The master plan) is a living document,” Fluhr said. “It’s not static.”

On their first visit, the students will get acquainted with the plan, the progress made on it, and the catalyst sites.

They will set up shop in the WDDC’s Innovation Center, a 1,400-square-foot space adjacent to WDDC’s offices at 507 E. Douglas, which was paid for in part by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Fluhr said the grant also called for educational outreach, which the participation of Kansas State architecture students satisfies.

Fluhr and Gregory said the students also will be working with consultants from Goody Clancy, the consultants on the downtown master plan, as well as officials from six local design and engineering firms: Professional Engineering Consultants, WDM Architects, GLMV Architecture, Law Kingdon Architecture, Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture, and Ruggles & Bohm.

The students will make another visit to Wichita in April. They will return in May to present their completed designs. Those designs will be available for public viewing at an open house, the location and date of which will be determined, Gregory said.

“As a community we’re going to reap the benefits of their vision,” Gregory said. “They’re not meant to be prescriptive, but it’s a starting point for conversations.”