Anyone who thinks Wichita is standing still should read the Forward Wichita special sections in last Sunday’s Eagle. Not only has Wichita made impressive advancements in recent years, it has big plans for the future.
The first section celebrated Wichita’s many points of pride. It listed several of the public improvements of the past decade, including the new airport, the Keeper of the Plains plaza, new exhibits at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Intrust Bank Arena, and the start of construction of the Advanced Learning Library. Other impressive improvements include the National Center for Aviation Training and new and renovated public schools.
Wichita’s art and music scenes also have grown, as has the number of food trucks. And downtown has become a hot spot to live, work and play.
Another section focused on new developments and projects that are accelerating change in Wichita. It mentioned the River Vista apartment development currently under construction along the Arkansas River. Wichita State University also is transforming with its new Innovation Campus. Other projects include new dining and shopping options and the Mary R. Koch Arts Center, which is slated to open at the end of this year.
A third section focused on ways to innovate and improve Wichita. It reported on current plans to replace Lawrence Dumont-Stadium and seek a minor-league franchise. It included aspirational goals and wish lists, such as a Cheesecake Factory and a Trader Joe’s. The section also profiled regional cities that have outpaced Wichita, and how we are catching up to and learning from those cities.
The final section focused on how Wichita can activate its talent and reach its potential. It included impressive efforts to encourage and support an entrepreneurial comeback. It also focused on the importance of strong leadership, both in the public and private sectors.
Wichita’s economy struggled to rebound from the last recession, which held the city back. But there have been positive economic signs of late, including a renewed focus on innovation and regional cooperation.
Wichita also has struggled at times with low self-esteem. Now there is a growing sense of pride in Wichita and its institutions. The city of Wichita flag is becoming ubiquitous – as are Shocker T-shirts.
There also is a sense of momentum about Wichita. Yes, challenges remain, but the city seems to have turned a corner, with even greater things ahead.
In the meantime, Wichitans should follow the advice that Mayor Jeff Longwell offered in the special sections: “Get out there, get involved, and explore all the great things Wichita has to offer.”