Riverfront Legacy Master Plan

The Range | Jan. 15, 2021

Jan 15, 2021
Beth Golay / KMUW

Have you been by Wichita's downtown riverfront lately? It doesn't look much different than it did a year ago — but change could be on the way, on both the west and east banks.

Olin and Populous

One year ago this week, hundreds of people gathered on the Newman University campus for the "big reveal" of a new plan to redevelop Wichita’s downtown riverfront.

Deborah Shaar / KMUW

Wichitans will get a say in the future of Century II — it just won’t be the final say.

The City Council approved a policy Tuesday to hold an advisory election before possibly demolishing either the historic domed building or the neighboring former central library.

A plan for the redevelopment of the downtown riverfront recommends tearing down both. Council member Brandon Johnson represents the city on the Riverfront Legacy Master Plan coalition, and he says it was the intent to hold a public vote on the future of the two buildings.

Stephan Bisaha / Kansas News Service/File photo

WICHITA, Kansas — At the start of 2020, Wichita dreamed of a $1 billion face-lift alongside the Arkansas River, complete with a new performing arts center, a new convention hall and wide green spaces.

That vision for the future in Wichita, and in other Kansas communities, has been put on hold for months or years — if not completely torn up — by COVID-19’s economic and public health impact.

Populous and Olin

The newest plan to redevelop the river corridor in downtown Wichita was released this week.

The mammoth billion dollar plan includes new performing arts and convention centers, more green space along the east bank of the river and a pedestrian bridge connecting to the west bank and new baseball stadium.

Populous and Olin

A new performing arts center. Twelve acres of green space. And no Century II.

Those are among the recommendations put forth by the coalition of community groups that’s been crafting a plan for Wichita’s downtown east riverbank for the past year. Members from the team that designed the plan presented it Tuesday night at an open house at Newman University.

There’s still a chance Century II will remain a part of Wichita’s skyline — just not as a performing arts or convention center.

Deborah Shaar / KMUW

Organizers with the group “Save Century II” support a city of Wichita recommendation to build a new performing arts center. They also say there is an opportunity to preserve the blue-domed round building.

Greg Kite with the Historic Preservation Alliance and community arts supporter Celeste Racette started the campaign to bring awareness of the historical value of Century II, and to keep the process of determining the future of Century II open to the public.

Deborah Shaar / KMUW

In a few months, the latest plan for developing downtown Wichita’s riverfront area will be released.

The details and recommendations are supposed to help guide the city to a final decision about the Century II complex. One aspect has already been decided: The city of Wichita has determined that it can’t transform the 50-year-old building into a modern performing arts venue.

Hugh Mason / Wikimedia Commons

The second round of community engagement events for the Riverfront Legacy Master Plan process is next week.

The Urban Explorations events on Sept. 24-25 provide a chance for Wichitans to take part in a walking tour along the riverfront and learn about some of the proposed plans and ideas the design committee is discussing. A question-and-comment session will follow each tour.

Susie Santo is president of Visit Wichita and a member of the planning committee. She says community interaction and feedback is essential to help the plan move in the direction that Wichita wants. 

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