The Wichita City Council on Tuesday approved a Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, plan for the redesign of Naftzger Park downtown.
$3 million in public improvements are planned for Naftzger Park, funded by the additional property tax revenue the city says will be generated after the Spaghetti Works building just east of the park is converted into a residential and commercial building.
The TIF project vote is the next step toward renovating the Victorian park into an “urban, modern” park and venue. The city says the park is a gateway to Intrust Bank Arena, and wants to complete the redesign ahead of next year's NCAA tournament in Wichita.
James Clendenin said the pace of the project is the fastest he's seen in the years he has been on the council.
"I just want to make sure this thing is done right, that we're not missing any details," he said. "I know we have flown this thing through very quickly."
The Naftzger Park redesign proposal has drawn some criticism from the public.
Wichita resident Pat Lehman spoke before council members during Tuesday's public hearing over the TIF funding plan. "You keep calling this renovation," she said. "It's destruction of our park."
But Vice Mayor Janet Miller, who represents residents in downtown Wichita, said she's heard from people who want to see something done with the park.
"I get complaints all the time about the public not being able to use that park and feel safe there and feel comfortable there, have it be a useable space for the way people want to use parks today," Miller said.
Councilwoman Lavonta Williams clarified that just because a TIF plan is now in place, the public still has a chance to weigh in what the park will look like.
“I’ve already asked the park board to make sure that we have other opportunities for input before it comes to the city council for decision time," she said. "Today is just the funding concept.”
The city has held two sets of open houses to gather input from the public. Four concept designs were released last week.
City leaders expect to approve a final park design this fall.
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