We continue to be encouraged by the momentum that is building in Wichita.
The news of the last two weeks alone provides plenty of evidence of the energy that is gathering around efforts to improve our city.
Some of the projects may seem relatively insignificant when examined alone, such as plans to establish more dog parks or make it easier for food truck owners to do business.
The potential effects of other projects are more obvious, such as expanding the STAR bond district on the west side of the Arkansas River downtown, the approval of a mixed-use development in the Delano district and the approval of a $25 million apartment/office/retail project in College Hill.
These projects, along with others that are already underway or planned, show a city with a vision that is becoming increasingly bold. They show a city that recognizes the importance of quality-of-life amenities to attract and retain young professionals and the businesses that would employ them.
Last week, the City Council approved the sale of land on the west side of the river, southwest of Second and McLean, for an apartment/hotel/retail development called the “Delano Catalyst” project. The project will connect the Delano commercial district with the Advanced Learning Library, which is under construction in that area. The latest development will only bolster an area anchored by the successful Exploration Place.
At the same meeting, the council approved Uptown Landing, which will include 188 high-end apartments and 18,000 square feet of office and retail space on East Douglas at Rutan in College Hill.
Earlier this month, the council approved expansion of the STAR bond district on the west side of the river with an eye toward building a new baseball stadium. The district allows the city to borrow money for projects in that area and pay off the debt with increases in sales tax revenue from the district.
The goal is to replace the 82-year-old Lawrence-Dumont Stadium with a facility that would attract a minor league baseball team affiliated with a Major League Baseball club. A new stadium and a Major League affiliated team would boost the city’s image and its quality of life.
Jeff Fluhr, president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp. and the Greater Wichita Partnership, told the City Council this month that the city is on its way to creating a “distinctive world-class riverfront.”
“Our city is becoming known as a city of opportunity,” he said.
Such projects help change the conversation about our city and the conversation within our city, which has struggled with a pessimistic attitude.
Mayor Jeff Longwell said it well:
“We’re shifting the conversation from ‘Why Wichita?’ to ‘Why not Wichita?’ ”
The shift of that conversation means more good things are ahead for our city.