Wichita City Council members voted Tuesday to allow developers to demolish the former Mead’s Corner coffee shop downtown, despite concerns over the building’s historical significance.
The council’s decision went against the recommendation of the city’s Historic Preservation Board, which last month voted to block developers from building a four-story office building at Douglas and Emporia. The property is part of the East Douglas Avenue Historic District, listed in the city, state and national registries of historic places.
Greg Kite is president of the nonprofit Historic Preservation Alliance of Wichita and Sedgwick County. He told council members they can't put a price on the community's history.
“This issue today raises a very dangerous precedent," Kite said. "A developer buying a triple-historic-registered property, not to be the caretaker, not to be the custodian of that property, but to demolish it.”
But council members agreed with development group TGC that because of the nature of the building, demolition is the only option.
"I think that our history is very important, but our history is not just buildings," said Cindy Claycomb, who represents the district where the building is located. "A vibrant downtown with office workers and retail is also part of our history."
Only Brandon Johnson voted against overturning the Historic Preservation Board's decision.
TGC purchased the property earlier this year; the coffee shop/Methodist ministry Mead's Corner closed for good in July. Along with a mixed-use commercial building at 430 E. Douglas, TGC also plans to redevelop a lot on the east side of Emporia into a 200-space parking lot.
City Council members agreed to issue up to $20 million in Industrial Revenue Bonds to help fund construction, and establish a Community Improvement District in the area to generate additional tax revenue for the project.
The city has also committed to converting Emporia into a two-way street from 1st Street down to Waterman.
TGC is partnering with the city to redevelop Naftzger Park and the old Spaghetti Works building nearby.