Get involved in downtown planning

Wichita has had a few weeks now to live with the draft downtown master plan, as well as with the lifeless blocks and sidewalks of the status quo.

Of course, Wichita also has had time to gather downtown to spend a summer night with the Eagles or Michael Buble at the Intrust Bank Arena, with Music Theatre of Wichita at Century II, with the Wingnuts at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, with a music act or moviemaker at the Orpheum Theatre, with friends in Old Town, or to enjoy one of the city's great attractions along the riverfront.

In other words, it's experienced the great reasons to come downtown that should stimulate a hunger for more.

Starting today, the public can learn the details of what Boston consultants Goody Clancy imagine downtown Wichita can be with the right kind of concentrated leadership and private and public investment.

The consultants recognize downtown's scattered successes, too, and have defined ways to connect these "pearls" with shops, restaurants, nightspots, parks and more trolley buses, and to spur more opportunities to work and live downtown. Among their 12 identified areas, the most exciting include the proposals to fill in the wasteland between Old Town and the arena with housing, retail and more, and to make the most of the area from Drury Southwest's $30 million renovation of the Broadview Hotel to Cargill's proposed innovation center.

The first two neighborhood community outreach meetings about the draft downtown master plan will be at 7 p.m. today at the Atwater Neighborhood City Hall, 2755 E. 19th St., and at 7 p.m. Thursday at Evergreen Library, 2601 N. Arkansas. The others, all at 7 p.m., are set for Monday at the Haysville Public Library, Tuesday at Bel Aire City Hall, July 14 at Derby City Hall, July 19 at United Methodist Church, 330 N. Broadway; July 20 at Wichita State University's Hughes Metropolitan Complex, 5015 E. 29th St. North; and July 21 at the Sedgwick County Extension Office, 7001 W. 21st St.

Those who attend the meetings will find that it helps to see the plan to believe in it.

Of course, a plan is only as effective as the political and public will behind it. Crucial questions remain to be answered about how deep the commitment to downtown goes among city and Sedgwick County leaders and business leaders — naturally cautious people made more so by the economy. Nobody seems to know how much the plan's implementation would cost taxpayers.

But many employers, business recruiters and young people understand that a reimagined and enlivened downtown will matter to how, or even whether, Wichita grows and improves through the century.

As by far the largest city in Kansas, Wichita deserves a downtown that inspires no shame or pity, only envy — and a desire to spend time and dollars there. The plan holds that promise.