Persuading Airbus to move 400 employees from downtown to Wichita State University was good for WSU, but not good for downtown.
WSU announced some decisions Tuesday that will mitigate much of that.
“For me, today’s pretty awesome,” said Jason Van Sickle, president of the Old Town Association.
Several groups coming downtown from WSU, he said, will attract a lot of public traffic and generate an economic boost.
Among other operations moving to WSU Old Town are the Center for Management Development; KMUW Wichita Public Radio; the Center for Economic Development and Business Research; the Center for Community Support and Research; the Center for Combating Human Trafficking; the College of Health Professions training and technology team; and Physician Assistant and Physical Therapy graduate degree programs, WSU officials said.
President John Bardo said during Tuesday’s news conference that WSU is deliberately moving to downtown in part to generate economic activity for the city. Several units he has assigned to move there operate by creating educational sessions and public events. Those units involve 200 faculty and staff, plus 300 students, and attract as many as 15,000 visitors annually to university-sponsored gatherings.
“We’re excited about the vitality in downtown Wichita and the changes that have occurred over the last several years with the construction of Intrust Bank Arena and the Kansas Leadership Center, along with the planned renovation of Union Station,” Bardo said in a statement. “Old Town is the heart of the action, and we are taking Airbus’ move as an opportunity to occupy prime real estate.”
Bardo said during Tuesday’s gathering – held at the Wichita Downtown Development Corp.’s office on East Douglas – that he first worked on the economic development of downtown Wichita not long after he started work as a sociology researcher and professor at WSU in 1973. One of the most quoted papers he ever wrote, he said, involved work he did trying to advise the city how to revive downtown, which at that time was not much more than old, abandoned warehouses.
Wichita and the community have done a good job of reviving downtown since then, Bardo said. The university wants to do what it can to help the community do more.
Some of the programs will use the space vacated by Airbus, which announced last week plans to move 400 employees from its Old Town offices to the new Innovation Campus at WSU.
Airbus opened its Old Town facilities at 213 N. Mead in June 2002, growing to 400 engineers by this year. The France-based company has two Wichita offices totaling 80,000 square feet across a parking lot from each other just south of Old Town Square.
Some WSU entities will occupy space in Old Town later this year and the rest in 2017, after Airbus Americas moves to WSU, Bardo said. The new WSU groups will be housed at 121 N. Mead, 213 N. Mead and 238 N. Mead.