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What’s with those sky-blue shipping containers stacked out front of Century II?

Beautiful views of Wichita as seen by a drone

(FILE VIDEO) Wichitan Tyler Engle and a friend shot some footage with a drone in April 2016 and made a quick video for his Facebook page.
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(FILE VIDEO) Wichitan Tyler Engle and a friend shot some footage with a drone in April 2016 and made a quick video for his Facebook page.

Perhaps you were wondering why two sky-blue railroad shipping containers are stacked on the plaza in front of Century II.

Wonder no longer. Welcome to the Legacy Lounge.

The containers will soon be painted with murals and become the centerpiece of a mini pop-up park. It will have seats and hammocks where you can relax and contemplate what you want development to look like along the east bank of the Arkansas River for the next century or so.

You’ll be able to share those thoughts in person or in writing with the River Legacy Master Plan Coalition, which has undertaken a process of rethinking the area that now is the site of the Century II Convention and Performing Arts Center and the WaterWalk.

Legacy Lounge is the brainchild of the Wichita Community Foundation and being paid for with a grant from the Knight Foundation, a nonprofit funded by the estates of two former owners of The Wichita Eagle.

Members of the plan coalition will be on hand to discuss the future of the east bank at least once a week through September, including the first First Friday art crawl on Sept. 6; Open Streets ICT on Sept. 22 and the Wagonmasters Downtown Chili Cookoff on Sept. 28, said Shelly Prichard, president and CEO of the community foundation.

When the Legacy Lounge is unstaffed, there will be a drop box where people can leave written comments that will be shared with designers from Populous, an international consulting group hired to replan the east bank of the river south of Douglas.

“So as you’re riding your scooter down Douglas and you want to pop a note in there and give us an idea, we want to have that,” Prichard said.

It’s part of the public engagement process to build buy-in for the master plan, which could lead to the demolition and replacement of the iconic but aging Century II.

The $700,000 master plan is being funded with $200,000 from the city and Sedgwick County governments and $500,000 from quasi-public and private groups.

There will be several other opportunities for community input, including online through social media.

Live meetings will include a series of “urban explorations” on Sept. 24 and 25 that will feature a tour of Century II and its surroundings.

That will be followed by a “data open house” Oct. 17 that will look at market studies and funding possibilities.

The conceptual design for the area is scheduled to be unveiled in a presentation meeting Nov. 14.

All of the upcoming meetings will be open to the public and will feature opportunities for public comment, said Evan Rosell, vice president of projects with the Greater Wichita Partnership.

While Prichard outlined the Legacy Lounge project at a Monday evening meeting of the coalition, artists and others were across the street prepping to paint the murals on the shipping containers.

The sides of the containers will feature kind of a stylized blueprint of the river with encouraging slogans that are yet to be finalized, said artist Dale Small.

The blue base coat matches the color of the Century II’s famed blue roof, he said.

The end of the containers facing Douglas will bear the Wichita city flag, he said.

It’s not a big project by Small’s standards.

He was the art director for the Horizontes Project that painted the gigantic mural on the Beachner Grain Elevator near 21st Street and Broadway.

Next to the containers, software engineer John Coles was getting his hands dirty, patching cracks in the concrete to prepare the surface for sidewalk art that will accompany the murals.

He said he recently moved to Wichita and volunteered to help out with the project.

“What better way to get involved with your city than something like this?” he said.

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Senior Journalist Dion Lefler has been providing award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business in Wichita for 20 years. Dion hails from Los Angeles, where he worked for the LA Daily News, the Pasadena Star-News and other papers. He’s a father of twins, director of lay servant ministries in the United Methodist Church and plays second base for the Old Cowtown vintage baseball team.
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