Opportunity to have a say about Wichita's future prompts 'overwhelming' response

Century II and the Wichita Skyline from 1/28/2016
Century II and the Wichita Skyline from 1/28/2016

The youngest was 9. The oldest was 90.

And they had lots of company. As it turns out, lots of people wanted to have their say on what Wichita and the surrounding area should look like in 10 years.

More than 3,800 people took part in focus groups that were the first phase of Project Wichita, a community engagement process intended to outline how Wichita and 10 surrounding counties should change and grow over the next 10 years.

Project Wichita officials called the response "overwhelming." At least 240 focus groups offered input. The response dwarfed similar projects in cities of similar size, officials said.

"We obviously struck a chord," said Evan Rosell, vice president of projects for the Greater Wichita Partnership. "I believe in this community. Our co-chairs believe in this community.

"What these focus group numbers tell us is the community really believes in itself, too. When you have a community that believes in itself, the sky is the limit."

Participants are enthusiastic about where Wichita is and enthusiastic about what it can become, Rosell said. Focus groups included rooms filled with people struggling with homelessness and rooms filled with CEOs.

"I've seen love of community in both," he said.

As people talked about what was most important to them, organizers said, eight general areas were mentioned most frequently: downtown Wichita, the riverfront, strong communities and neighborhoods, cultural arts and attractions, economic opportunity, transportation, education and community wellness.

The Public Policy and Management Center at Wichita State University is now drafting a community survey that will "provide additional input on opportunities and future strategic discussions," according to a statement issued Wednesday.

The survey will be available online from June 18 through July 6 at www.projectwichita.org.