Politics & Government

City sells downtown parking lot, will use money to make a one-way street two-way

A historic look at Mead’s Corner

Local historian, Jim Mason gives a tour of the 109-year-old building at Douglas and Emporia that the City Council has voted to demolish. Built just after the turn of the century in 1909, the building most recently housed Mead's Corner.
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Local historian, Jim Mason gives a tour of the 109-year-old building at Douglas and Emporia that the City Council has voted to demolish. Built just after the turn of the century in 1909, the building most recently housed Mead's Corner.

Expanding on promises made to the developers who are replacing the former Mead’s Corner building downtown, the Wichita City Council agreed Tuesday to sell a city parking lot and put the proceeds toward making Emporia a two-way street.

The $100,000 sale proceeds, added to about $500,000 from other sources, should give the city enough money to convert Emporia from one-way to two-way traffic from Central south to Waterman, and maybe eventually from Central to Lincoln, officials said.

Converting a section of Emporia to a two-way street was part of a $5 million subsidy package to the TGC Development Group, which plans to tear down the historic building at 430 E. Douglas and replace it with a larger, modern office/retail complex.

At Tuesday’s meeting, council member Bryan Frye questioned why the money from the parking lot sale was being diverted to the street project, instead of the city’s economic development fund, where it would usually go.

City Manager Robert Layton answered: “We’d like to maximize the opportunity for the conversion of Emporia to a two-way street. This additional $100,000 would help us actually increase the length of the street that would be converted starting at Central.”

Assistant City Manager Scot Rigby said the bulk of the cost to convert the street will be additional traffic signals needed for two-way traffic flow.

He said the original plan was to make Emporia two-way from First Street to Waterman. With the additional funding, that can be expanded to Central on the north.

From Waterman to Lincoln will depend on how much money is left over and whether residents want a two-way street through their neighborhood, Rigby said.

Tuesday’s parking lot sale will reduce public parking downtown by as many as 24 spaces, according to a staff report.

The rest of the money for the $600,000 Emporia project comes from the sale of another formerly public parking lot to TGC for $300,000, plus an extra 2 percent sales tax on consumer goods purchased from businesses in the project area.

In December, the City Council overruled a Historic Preservation Board recommendation to save the Mead’s Corner Building, which was built in 1909 and was part of the East Douglas Avenue Historic District.

The building’s final tenant was the Mead’s Corner coffeehouse, a downtown gathering place and outreach of the nearby First United Methodist Church.

The new building that will replace it will stand four stories tall and contain 60,000 square feet of office space and 10,000 square feet of commercial space.

TGC has also partnered with the city to develop the Spaghetti Works District and reconstruct Naftzger Park, an ongoing project on south Douglas just west of the BNSF railroad tracks.

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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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