Maize has announced a new initiative to develop an arts district along its Academy Avenue.
City of Maize executive assistant Jolene Graham said the goal is to create an area that helps characterize the city.
“The ideal outcome is creating a downtown sense for our community,” Graham said. “Maize does not really have a downtown area. And that’s what we’re looking for. How do we have our own unique voice in the metropolitan mix of the Wichita area?”
The city has hired a design consulting firm to develop a master plan for the new arts district. The plan will provide a framework for the city to implement and expand on over time.
Graham used neighborhoods like Old Town, Riverside and the Delano District as examples to describe what Maize has envisioned for the future.
She said that increasing walkability, encouraging new business and beautifying the area will be key objectives of the project.
“We have a lot of disparate parts in this area,” Graham said.
The mile and a half of street mapped out to become Maize’s art district is currently home to industrial, retail, residential, school and even empty, undeveloped areas.
“It is just a wild mix to try to pull together,” Graham said. “It’s not about going in and gentrifying an area. It’s going in and working with what’s there.”
Graham said the project is difficult to define at this point because there are many possibilities.
“It’s hard for people to imagine what it could be.”
Maize residents will have the opportunity to be a part of the design process next month. The design consultants will operate an interactive, open-door studio in the city park’s community building at the end of September. The consultants are expected to present the master plan to the city in January or February of 2019.
Some infrastructural changes will begin as early as next year, but Graham said that turning the whole vision into a reality could take up to 20 years—and that’s a good thing.
“As development happens and as years pass, we will come up with better ideas as a community, as a city,” she said. “This plan will allow us to incorporate those into a unifying vision over time. It’s meant to be a very slow process, but it’s also meant to be intentional, and that is how a city is built.”
For more information about the Academy Arts District plan, visit the project website.
Ascha Lee is a KMUW Engagement Assistant and News Lab intern. Follow her on Twitter @AschaLee.