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What Did $100M Do For Downtown Wichita?


Nearly $100 million was invested in downtown projects last year including the Ambassador Hotel, St. Mary's Cathedral and the YMCA.

This figure comes from the 2012 Project Downtown annual report that was presented to the Wichita City Council Tuesday by Jeff Fluhr, president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp., and Scott Knebel from the city.

David Dixon, principle for planning and urban design at Goody Clancy out of Boston, was also part of the presentation because he helped craft the master plan.

He returned to Wichita this week for the first time in two years to see the results and said he's impressed with the progress and how good the work is.

He needed to be driven around the new downtown YMCA twice.

"Really, it's the best urban Y I have seen," Dixon said. "It's well designed, but what is particularly wonderful about it is that it brings the street around it to life."

He said buildings like that are often beautifully designed closed containers, with swimming pools, activity and people of different backgrounds getting together. But then you don't see it from the street.

"In Wichita, you see the community, the vitality, the energy you all have," said Dixon. "It spills out into the street and the blocks surrounding."

The annual report shows that public funds covered $10.7 million of the projects, and $84.1 million came from private sources. It also outlines accomplishments from the past year:

  • Block One redevelopment project, including the Ambassador Hotel, Kansas Leadership Center and Kansas Health Foundation Conference Center, Block One Parking Garage, Urban Plaza at Block One, and future development of the Henry’s Building
  • Douglas Avenue Corridor Transit Oriented Development Study and award of the Federal Transit Administration Bus Livability Initiative Grant to fund the $1.35 million first phase of improvements
  • St. Francis streetscaping improvements from Douglas to 2nd Street providing a key connection between the Intrust Bank Arena and Old Town and resulting in significant redevelopment along the corridor including the Zelman Building, Pixius Communications Building, and Bite Me BBQ
  • Numerous residential projects either completed, under construction, or in development including Player Piano Lofts, The Renfro, Commerce Street Lofts, Zelman Lofts, The Lux, Corner 365,  WaterWalk Apartments, The Commodore, and Exchange Place 
  • Opening of the Robert D. Love Downtown YMCA and the Fountains at WaterWalk

Also at the meeting, council member Paul Gray questioned the public and private funding figures from the report saying several private projects have public funds supporting them.
The numbers are expected to be better defined in a downtown economic report available in May.

Carla Eckels is Director of Organizational Culture at KMUW. She produces and hosts the R&B and gospel show Soulsations and brings stories of race and culture to The Range with the monthly segment In the Mix. Carla was inducted into The Kansas African American Museum's Trailblazers Hall of Fame in 2020 for her work in broadcast/journalism.