Special Reports

Downtown changes to begin on Douglas

Wichita city officials announced Monday afternoon the first steps to implement the $600 million downtown revitalization master plan that will be unveiled today.

Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said the city has a fast-track plan to target development in the first year to 18 months along three areas — Douglas, Union Station and Naftzger Park, and the Commerce Street Arts District and St. Francis corridor.

An open house to unveil the downtown master plan will run from 4 to 8 p.m. today at Bank of America, 100 N. Broadway, with formal plan presentations scheduled for 5:30 and 6:30 p.m.

To kick off the downtown plan, Brewer on Monday announced the appointment of city planner Scott Knebel as the city's downtown coordinator, overseeing implementation of the plan with assistance from city development coordinator Terry Cassady.

Knebel will develop timelines for the strategies in the plan, Brewer said, and will be the city's point man working with staff, the Wichita Downtown Development Corp., landowners and developers.

"We think we've done everything correctly...," Brewer said about the year city officials spent getting residents' input into the plan.

"Once we receive the plan, the work really begins then."

In addition, Brewer said the city will:

* Develop an inventory of all city-owned property downtown within the next 90 days, including all vital information about each parcel, the master plan's designation for the land and a streamlined process for obtaining redevelopment proposals on the land.

* Complete a new set of criteria for public incentives downtown by early 2011, weighing the compliance of project proposals with the master plan, the developer's experience, the plan's projected financials and other issues.

* Adopt a downtown parking plan to govern the city's financial involvement in parking, likely garages, City Manager Robert Layton said Monday.

* Adopt development plans for the first redevelopment targets — Douglas, Union Station and Naftzger Park, and Commerce Street.

The city's Douglas corridor planning will include streetscapes, first-floor retail possibilities and office development, Brewer said.

Meanwhile commercial redevelopment will be the target in the Union Station area while plans for Commerce Street and St. Francis will target commercial and residential development while allowing the existing arts community to thrive, the mayor said.

The master plan calls for about $100 million in public investment in parking, transit and street improvements and $500 million in private development.

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