Business Perspectives

Downtown planning consultant is right choice

In the course of our recent public presentations, Wichita received strong and encouraging sentiment from all four finalist downtown planning groups. Each presentation was dynamic and exciting, with all of the teams impressed by the good foundation we have laid for further downtown development. They noted that what has been accomplished in Old Town and other downtown areas, including the soon to open Intrust Bank Arena, has positioned us for this next important step.

Each consultant team had great expertise, public input processes and success stories to tell. All talked about the benefits of downtown revitalization: increasing the return on investment for taxpayers, including examples of private investment exceeding the public investment by as high as 15-to-1, new jobs, more property and tourism revenue and more people living, working and enjoying entertainment in the downtown core. In the final deliberation, the Goody Clancy team that includes six partners had three strengths that matched our needs.

* A business plan. The final product will be a master plan that is developed from a business perspective. The Goody Clancy team understands that great planning and design must be accompanied by solid business analysis. Through this team, we have the benefit of three economic firms with expertise in overall development, retail and housing. They analyze demographics, psychographics and the micro markets for different downtown areas, ensuring that their approach is grounded in economic data not whimsical projections.

The business plan will unlock the private sector potential because the Goody Clancy team approaches the plan through the eyes of the private and public sectors. They work with both to produce a high rate of return of investment, including solid tools to stimulate investment and to identify and remove any barriers to private developers. It is only through the use of these tried and true efficiencies that we will ever reach critical mass downtown: a stage in private development that simply cannot be stopped.

* A grand vision. Great businesses and great communities have grand visions that are then backed up with solid business plans. The Goody Clancy team demonstrated how they can help us create that vision by helping us clearly identify and articulate it. They have successfully accomplished this in other communities — including Asheville, N.C.; Columbus, Ohio; and now in New Orleans — while recognizing the uniqueness of each city with which they work. That focus and that vision must come from us as a community, developed through their engagement and outreach strategies.

* Community input. The team outlined multiple methods to obtain public input to assist in creating the vision unique for Wichita. There are traditional public meetings and interviews joined with new uses of interactive technology to provide additional input. Their expertise and commitment to engagement will guide us as a community as we determine our priorities while making educated decisions based on economic realities. We will create the vision. They will bring the professional and unique expertise to help us achieve our goals.

The process that has been employed in this effort to revitalize downtown is a testament to our leaders and our partners. Through the leadership of Mayor Carl Brewer, the community came together to "dare to dream." Through a coalition working toward that end, including the city, the Wichita Downtown Development Corp., Visioneering Wichita, the Metropolitan Area Planning Division, the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, Go Wichita, Sedgwick County and the more than 46 businesses who have donated more than $100,000 to fund the plan, we stand on the verge of a true downtown resurgence.

The mayor is correct when he points out that the public is critical in this process and asks for the continued involvement of Wichita's citizens. We look forward to the City Council vote Tuesday officially hire Goody Clancy as we take this next important step in our efforts. Most importantly, we trust that the people of Wichita will respond to the call for continued interaction with this outstanding consultant team as we come together to envision and define our new downtown.