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Wichita council considering next step toward demolition of historic McClinton Grocery Store

The McClinton Grocery Store at 1201 E. 12th St. was established by Curtis McClinton Sr. in the 1940s.
The McClinton Grocery Store at 1201 E. 12th St. was established by Curtis McClinton Sr. in the 1940s. The Wichita Eagle

As a child growing up in Wichita, Lavonta Williams remembers visiting her grandparents’ home at Cleveland and East 12th every Saturday and Sunday.

Those visits also meant going to the nearby McClinton Grocery Store at 1201 E. 12th St. Curtis McClinton Sr., who later became the first African-American elected to the Kansas Senate, established the store in the McAdams neighborhood in the 1940s.

“It was the place to go to get candy,” said Williams, now a City Council member.

Tuesday, the council is set to vote on one step in the process that would lead to demolishing the deteriorating building.

But Williams said she’s considering asking City Manager Robert Layton to postpone the agenda item a week to give out-of-town family members a chance for a firsthand look at the building.

The family of McClinton Sr., who died at the age of 99 in 2012, plans to come to Wichita on Friday, Williams said.

Curtis McClinton Jr., a former football star at North High School, the University of Kansas and the Kansas City Chiefs, is listed as the owner of the property, according to Sedgwick County records. He is expected to be among the family members to take a look at the building.

“I want to give them a chance to see what it would take to fix it up,” she added.

Until the store closed, probably sometime in the 1960s, it was an integral part of the neighborhood, Williams said.

“It was part of a very thriving community,” she said. “I hate to see it go.”

The council is being asked to reverse an October decision by the city’s Historic Preservation Board not to demolish the building.

The building is listed on the state and national registers for historic places.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Department is seeking to have the building torn down. As required by state law, its first step must be to put its request before the historic preservation board.

But also by state law, that board isn’t allowed to grant a demolition of a historic-designated building, said John Schlegel, planning department director.

“It’s a quirk in the state law,” he said.

So the board voted 7-0 to deny the request.

Now the planning department is appealing that decision to the council, which is the only body that can approve the demolition.

But that wouldn’t be the end of the road. If the council approves the appeal, the Metropolitan Area Building and Construction Department would have to agree to schedule the demolition.

That joint Sedgwick County-city agency has tentatively scheduled a hearing on the matter for Jan. 6. If it approves the demolition, the issue would then go back to the City Council to actually give its OK to tear down the building.

Demolition costs would be paid by the building and construction department. A city document prepared by the area planning department asks the council to find if there are “prudent and feasible alternatives” to demolition.

Williams noted the store’s roof is sagging, pieces are falling off the front and its side boards are swaying.

“It’s beginning to be an eyesore,” Williams said. “It’s become a dangerous building. I hate to see it go, but it’s served it’s time.”

Still, if there’s any hope of the McClinton family coming to the store’s rescue, Williams said, she wants to give them a chance.

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rickplumlee.

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