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New plans for Wichita’s downtown riverfront unveiled

Rendering of the new downtown riverfront plan. The new plan keeps existing buildings such as Century II and the former downtown library. There's also a pedestrian bridge over the Arkansas River.
City of Wichita
The new downtown riverfront plan keeps existing buildings in the area, including Century II and the former downtown library.

The new plans keep the existing buildings in the area, including Century II and the former downtown library.

The city of Wichita unveiled new plans on Tuesday to redevelop the downtown riverfront.

The new plan will cost about $400 million, about half as much as the previously proposed billion dollar Riverfront Legacy Master Plan. And it will retain the existing buildings in the area.

The plans include repurposing the Century II Performing Arts and Convention Center with an expanded ballroom and expanding the attached convention center. It also calls for renovating the former downtown library.

Officials with Visit Wichita said the new renovations could bring in millions of dollars to the city every year in convention revenue.

“We even know there’s more demand than we knew a decade ago,” said Suzie Santo, president and CEO of Visit Wichita. “There’s huge opportunity. Every year we wait, we’re missing out on about $45 million annually in economic output that we won’t get back.”

Even with repurposing Century II, the city is also planning to build a new performing arts center and pedestrian bridge that goes over the Arkansas River.

Talks of redeveloping the downtown riverfront area have been in the works for about a decade now.

The Riverfront Legacy Master Plan lost momentum with the pandemic. The plan also got pushback from community members who wanted to keep Century II.

“I just really hope this is not another plan that gets put on the shelf,” City Council member Brandon Johnson said. “I know that our other plans were used to develop this, but one of the things I've wanted to make sure is we actually do something, and we've been talking about this too long now.”

A timeline was not given for the completion of the riverfront project.

“This process is not anything that is going to happen fast,” Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple said.

Kylie Cameron (she/her) is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. Before KMUW, Kylie was a digital producer at KWCH, and served as editor in chief of The Sunflower at Wichita State. You can follow her on Twitter @bykyliecameron.