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With dirt in place, downtown appearance is hole-lot better

Workers from Tejeda Electric bury electrical lines at the site of a pop-up park that's under construction on the south side of Douglas between Market and Main. (August 13, 2015)
Workers from Tejeda Electric bury electrical lines at the site of a pop-up park that's under construction on the south side of Douglas between Market and Main. (August 13, 2015) The Wichita Eagle

There’s no longer a concrete pit in downtown Wichita.

“The Hole,” as it has been called, near Douglas and Market, has been an eyesore to passing drivers and pedestrians for about eight years. It’s now filled with 4,600 cubic yards of dirt and soon will become an urban pop-up park.

“Just the fact that the hole is gone, it already looks better,” said Jason Gregory, executive vice president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp. “I think people will appreciate the difference.”

Workers are adding a few more truckloads of dirt, donated from digging sites at the new Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County and the River Vista apartments along the Arkansas River. Heavy rainfall slowed the process in the past few weeks, Gregory said, but now the space is waiting for a surface layer of rock.

Next, an electrician will install a string of overhead lights, and trees, plants, furniture and artwork will be added. Food trucks will be able to park south of the park during the lunch hour. There also will be a concrete pingpong table, and the Tallgrass Film Festival has expressed interest in showing movies in a screening area, Gregory said.

Organizers expect an opening sometime in September.

The pit has been around since 2007, when a developer’s plans for a new building fell through, leaving the skeleton of a basement. Before it was filled in, the concrete walls were cut into pieces and knocked down, and holes were cut in the floor to allow water to filter through.

The corporation used a $146,000 grant from the Knight Foundation, administered by the Wichita Community Foundation, to construct the temporary park, Gregory said.

“Ultimately, long-term, we want to see new development,” he said.

The land is privately owned by the owner of the park’s neighboring buildings; it’s nestled between the Caldwell Murdock Building and the Woolf Bros. Building. Developers Robert Eyster and Michael Ramsey plan to eventually construct a Class A building when the timing is right, The Eagle reported last month.

Reach Shelby Reynolds at 316-268-6514 or sreynolds@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @_shelbyreynolds.

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