Politics & Government

Wichita Century II supporters fight back against master plan they say will destroy it

Led by a woman whose father helped get the Century II built, a citizens’ group has called its first public meeting to try to save the embattled Wichita landmark.

Supporters of the iconic round blue-roofed convention and performing arts center will meet there Tuesday to talk about their efforts to get it named a state historic landmark and to discuss the unique architecture of a building that they see as threatened.

At issue is the Riverfront Legacy Master Plan, a $700,000 public and privately funded effort to envision the future of the area around the Century II, the former Central Library and the WaterWalk.

The master plan group has hired Populous, an international urban consulting firm, to create the plan. Indications at a July 31 kickoff meeting were that Century II may face the wrecking ball to make way for new convention and performance venues.

Celeste Racette, the daughter of Vincent Bogart, who was on the City Commission from 1963 to 1967 and mayor in 1964 and 1965, was asked to leave that meeting after setting up a tabletop display of her dad’s artifacts and photos of the early days of the Century II.

“The Riverfront Legacy group appears to only have one purpose – public relations for the razing of Century II and the building of a new arts center,” Racette told the City Council on Tuesday.

Members of the Riverfront planning group have said no decisions have been made on the fate of the Century II yet. They’ve announced a series of walking tours and meetings with the planners and landscape architects who are working on the project.

The Century II group will meet at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Mary Jane Teall Theater in the Century II, 225 W. Douglas, Wichita.

Featured speakers will include Greg Kite, president of the Historical Preservation Alliance of Wichita, and architect Dean Bradley, who will discuss the significance of the building that was designed by two men who studied under famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

The Riverfront Legacy Master Plan is funded by $200,000 from Wichita and Sedgwick County governments and $500,000 from a coalition of private and quasi-public organizations including: Downtown Wichita, Greater Wichita Partnership, Visit Wichita, Wichita Community Foundation, Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce and W, formerly Young Professionals of Wichita.

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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.