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Wichita's Dunbar Theatre On Track To Reopen In 2020

Carla Eckels

City Council members on Tuesday got a look at a plan to restore Wichita’s historic Dunbar Theatre, which closed in 1963.

The feasibility plan presented before the council lays out a 3-phase plan for the theatre and surrounding "cultural district."

In addition to restoring the 340-seat theatre, developers want to establish a campus that will include a café, a gallery, a retail center and education facilities. The center will focus on African American arts, history and culture.

Read the Dunbar Theatre Capital Feasibility and Business Program Plan

New York-based consultant Candace Jackson told council members Dunbar will be the center of a bigger plan to revitalize the area around 9th and Cleveland in Wichita’s McAdams neighborhood.

“[Phases 2 and 3] are really envisioned to create that hub of activity that many of you remember, that hub of activity and that viable commercial anchor for the McAdams community first, but the city of Wichita more broadly," she said.

Credit Power CDC/City of Wichita/CJAM Consulting
A rendering of the larger campus planned for the area surrounding Dunbar Theatre.

The area around Dunbar Theatre was once a vibrant commercial corridor and a hub for the city's African American community. The theatre was built in 1941 but had fallen into disrepair by 1950. Though the city had plans to demolish the building, it was purchased in an auction by the Wichita firm Power CDC in 2007, and added to the National Register for Historic Places the following year.

Efforts to restore the theatre have been in the works for years. City Councilwoman Lavonta Williams, whose district includes Dunbar, said the plan presented Tuesday "definitely gives us a bible, per se, to start that motivation and to start the wheels rolling."

An architecture firm has been selected to draw up designs. A capital campaign will start this year to raise the $5.2 million dollars needed for initial design and construction costs.

Construction is expected to begin in 2018, with an official opening and launch at the end of 2020.


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