The Nomar International Marketplace in north Wichita is set for its grand opening today.
"It has been kind of a long time coming," said Anita Mendoza, president of the Nomar Market Community Development Project.
But the project, which had its ribbon cutting last weekend, is celebrating its grand opening weekend on the plaza at 21st Street and Broadway.
The area has been bustling with live music and dancing since Cinco De Mayo on Thursday and has activities planned through 10 o'clock tonight. Friday night, the Little Smoke, a Santana tribute band, played.
An open-air market opens at 8 a.m. today and runs through noon with fresh produce and merchandise with an international flavor.
Food vendors will operate out of the plaza all day, including a beer and margarita garden.
The Mexican band Imangin de Barrio is set to play from 6 to 10 p.m.
"We want people to dance," Mendoza said.
"We also want people to walk around the area and discover our shops," she said.
That includes Paleteria Tropicana El Padrino, a homemade ice cream shop at 214 W. 21st, and El Mariachi and Moda Jalisco, across from the market.
Lili Duron's family has run El Mariachi and Moda Jalisco for the most of the past decade.
"I just hope people from all over the city will get to know this area and enjoy what's here," she said.
The neighborhood and business district surrounding Nomar has been waiting years for a grand opening.
"I've been in Wichita 29 years, and they were talking about it when I got here," said Abel Perez, executive director at the Wichita Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "Now that it's here, we have to continue to build on it."
Residents and merchants in the area had seen 14 other redevelopment plans fail in the past 49 years.
In 2004, the city approved a $228 million to revitalize 21st Street from Hillside to Amidon.
By 2006, there had been 15 studies on the area. That year, the projected completion date was 2008.
Nomar, a local abbreviation for North Market Area, was adopted as the area's name later that year. It's also the name of a theater on the corner of Market and Broadway.
By 2007, the city had spent more than $535,000 in studies for the project.
In September 2008, the City Council approved $762,000 to build the outdoor marketplace. A groundbreaking that December drew 100 people.
Duron said the past couple of years have been tough for her family's businesses.
"It has been frustrating because for a long time there was just dirt outside our store, and we had no parking," Duron said. "But now there's a parking lot, sidewalks, and it all looks very clean."
The market was set to open last June. Then it was put off a week. Now, 11 months later, construction and street renovations have been completed.
"I've learned a lot about construction the past several months," Mendoza said. "But the city wanted to make sure it was all done appropriately, so they wouldn't have to come in and do it again."
Friday, workers in hard hats and orange vests planted the last tree near the corner of Broadway and 21st.
The open-air market will continue every Saturday until September, and Mendoza said she's on the lookout to add vendors.
"Even if you've never done it before, contact us, and we'll help you," Mendoza said.
Still, Nomar is being selective about what's sold at its market.
"We are looking for vendors with unique merchandise with an international flavor that you can't find anywhere else in Wichita," Mendoza said.
Also in the works: free zumba, a high-energy fitness dance, once a month.
Events will be announced on the area's Facebook page (search: Nomar CDC)
Parking includes a lot on the southwest corner of 21st and Broadway. There's also a lot on the northwest corner and a lot behind the old Nomar theater off Market — which has two-way traffic for a couple of blocks off Broadway.
Patrons may also park, where permitted, on the side streets of surrounding neighborhoods.