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Park Board OKs Use Of Naftzger Park Land For Restaurant Seating

Nadya Faulx
The Wichita Park Board approved an agreement to allow patio seating on the east edge of Naftzger Park.

The Wichita Park Board on Wednesday signed off on an agreement to allow businesses next to Naftzger Park to use some park land for private patio seating.

The board unanimously approved a 3-year use agreement with Douglas Development LLC, the group that owns the building east of the 1-acre park in downtown Wichita.

Credit Nadya Faulx / KMUW
City Manager Robert Layton presents the use agreement to park board members ahead of their vote.

City Manager Robert Layton explained about 765 square feet of park land will be turned into patio space for two restaurants.

“We had always anticipated that we would energize the east side of the park with café seating,” he said.

The special meeting Wednesday afternoon was held two weeks after the Wichita City Council tabled a lease agreement with similar terms. Some council members raised concerns after it was discovered the agreement had been placed on the consent agenda, which usually is passed without public discussion. There were also public concerns over public land being leased to private developers.

Layton says the use agreement addresses some of those concerns by limiting how the businesses can use the park land. Under the terms of the agreement, the patios will be delineated by planters (paid for by the developers) instead of fencing, and the land can only be used for outdoor dining.

Jon Rolph is president and CEO of Thrive Restaurant Group, which includes the two restaurants seeking to have patios in Naftzger Park. He says he doesn’t want the patios to “stick out as a sore thumb or something different from the park.”

“We want people to feel like they are in the park,” he told the board.

Credit Nadya Faulx / KMUW
Renovation of the 1-acre park in downtown Wichita began last summer.

An annual use fee of $2,000 for both restaurants will go toward park maintenance.

The city has similar use agreements for park space with Greater Wichita First Tee golf, the archery group Wichita Shooting Stars, and the Wichita Rowing Association. The city has also issued sidewalk café permits to places like the Ambassador Hotel, Hopping Gnome brewery and the new downtown Starbucks, which have outdoor dining spaces on public sidewalks.

Renovations to Naftzger Park began last summer and are being financed through Tax Increment Financing and a donation from Evergy. The city says it completed the first phase of construction last week, and plans are to have the park and neighboring Spaghetti Works development complete by the end of the year or early next year.

Follow Nadya Faulx on Twitter @NadyaFaulx. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

Nadya Faulx is KMUW's Digital News Editor and Reporter, which means she splits her time between working on-air and working online, managing news on KMUW.org, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. She joined KMUW in 2015 after working for a newspaper in western North Dakota. Before that she was a diversity intern at NPR in Washington, D.C.