Civic Affairs in WICHITA, Kansas, USA

Occasional News & Topics in Community Affairs
Copyright 2010-2016 by Richard Harris*

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2010 Jan/Feb
2010 Charette
2010 Spring

BACKGROUND INFORMATION on Downtown Revitalization Issues
...from Official & Unofficial Perspectives

This section of the Civic Affairs in Wichita site is about Downtown, and chiefly about two main periods of downtown-"revitalization" initiatives: 2009-2015 and 2018-2020.

Starting around 2009 -- after decades of dithering over what to do about downtown -- Wichita community leaders, downtown land-holders, businesses and developers (some from out-of-state) — led by the City of Wichita (CoW), the Wichita Downtown Development Corp. (WDDC) and their primary consultants, Goody Clancy Group — began organized efforts to create a "Master Plan" for Downtown revitalization, and put it into action.

The result was a renaissance, of sorts, in Downtown, but with countless, costly false starts, fiascoes, and failures. In the end, though, Downtown had become significantly "revitalized" with numerous new and renovated buildings, and some new businesses, and increased public activity.

A decade later, in 2019, city government and developers began another set of initiatives to develop the western edge of Downtown, along the banks of the Arkansas River -- particularly...

  • re-locating the city's main public library, to the West Bank of the Arkansas River, near the confluence of the Big & Little Arkansas rivers;

  • replacing the city's water-treatment plant, near the confluence of the Big & Little Arkansas rivers;

  • replacing the city's baseball stadium ("ballpark") on the West bank of the Arkansas river;

  • replacing the city's Century II civic center complex & the abandoned public library with a new civic center complex and commercial buildings;
...in all, over two billion dollars in public and private spending (on average, over $5,000 per citizen, to come from every man, woman and child in Wichita, directly or indirectly).

This website section is an unofficial, wide-ranging background reference about Downtown Wichita, and a quick overview of the two most intense periods of planning, community input, and action, which peaked in 2010, and again in 2019, but continues still today.

It includes links to various official and unofficial sources and documents, and major media reports. It does not presume to be a complete and thorough coverage of the topic, but simply a helpful source to greatly expand your ready access to useful information. Multiple viewpoints are presented, some in conflict. Use with caution.


Images of Downtown

Official Websites

Official Case for Downtown Development

Wichita Eagle Survey

WSU Survey

Wichita Office Market - GWEDC Report

Weather Issues in Downtown Wichita

Alternative Perspectives on Downtown Development

Images of Downtown Wichita

Official Websites about Downtown Wichita

The Official Case For Downtown Revitalization

- File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat
March 2009

Official joint report by:

  • City of Wichita,
  • Chamber of Commerce,
  • Wichita Downtown Development Corp,
  • Visioneering Wichita,
  • Wichita Convention & Vistor's Bureau, and
  • Young Professionals of Wichita

That plan addressed urban design, opportunity sites, marketing, parking and funding, etc.

WARNING: That official report almost exclusively compares Wichita to very different cities -- three "case studies" of cities in the South/Near-South, several hundred miles away from Wichita, towards the East:

    • Louisville, Kentucky,
    • Chattanooga, Tennessee,  and
    • Raleigh, North Carolina
...all in very different social, cultural, economic, geographic and climatic environments from Wichita.

That report DOES NOT give a detailed comparison to Midwestern / Southern cities closer to Wichita (geographically and characteristically) -- such as:

  • Kansas City & Topeka, KS
  • St.Louis, Columbia, Joplin, Springfield & Branson, MO
  • Omaha & Lincoln, NE
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Chicago, Springfield and Peoria, IL
  • Indianapolis and Ft.Wayne, IN
  • Tulsa and Oklahoma City, OK
  • Dallas/Ft.Worth, Austin and Lubbock, TX
  • Denver and Colorado Springs, CO
A few of these were mentioned in passing, but the detailed studies were of the comparatively unrelated, basically southeastern cities.

Wichita Eagle Survey:
What Do Young Adults Think About Wichita?
(Click graph to enlarge)

Wichita Eagle, Business News, Feb 21, 2010 .
Detailed poll results (data), only published in Sunday newspaper, Business News section; data not available with the online article, but graphed for you here (click to enlarge), and itemized in the table below:

This survey, and the related survey below, are being described in official and business circles as "guidelines" for community development priorites -- focusing on the desires of a narrow class of young, college-educated, upper-middle-class, mostly-white Wichitans -- many of them transients -- to the exclusion of everyone else. Various consultants advise that enticing these "high value" workers to Wichita (and keeping them here) is critical to attracting major corporations -- and their other jobs -- to Wichita (and keeping them here).

-- NOT taking into consideration the MAJORITY of the community, nor even the majority of Wichita's young adults. Young "white collar" workers are studied. "Blue-collar" / "gray-collar" / "pink-collar" workers and homemakers (most of Wichita's population) are not considered. Nor are retirees, nor later-middle-aged workers, nor children, teens or even college students.

Survey Results - Young Professionals
Feb.21, 2010 Wichita Eagle, Business Section, page 5B


Believe this quality important

Believe Wichita has this quality

Cost of Living



Ease of Getting Around



Quality of Recreation & Environment



Quality of Culture, Dining & Nightlife



Diversity, Community Engagement



WSU Survey:
Young Professionals Survey

- File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat -
by Wichita State University CEDBR
(Ctr. for Economic Development & Business Research)

A survey of selected young adults (NextGen YUPPIES ?).
Includes their comments on local amenities - including Downtown, the River, Old Town, variety of shopping and restaurants, ... and complaints: a lack of a progressive movement, progressive transportation options, etc.

NOTE: Only YOUNG PROFESSIONALS surveyed. Not taking into consideration the majority of the community, nor even the majority of Wichita professionals or young adults.

Wichita Office Market -
GWEDC Report:

"Key Industries -  Office Operations"

Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition

A summary of Wichita office-based activity and resources, by the Wichita umbrella organization for local economic development (organized to promote Wichita business growth). Talks in some detail about Downtown Wichita. Other menu items link to related topics about Wichita.

Weather in Downtown Wichita

How Wichita's Weather Challenges Downtown Development Ideas & Plans.

NOTE: This Wichita weather data analysis is based on official government data from the Wichita weather summary by the National Climatic Data Center, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, U.S. government -- partially summarized at Wikipedia.org -- and additional data directly from NOAA.

East-coast consultants Goody Clancy, the city's chief consultants on downtown redevelopment, have based much of their design ideas on the assumption that young professionals will want an "outdoor" lifestyle in Wichita -- walking, bicycling or taking public transit to go from place to place, and participating in open-air activity. This presumes tolerable weather, on a fairly frequent basis -- as is common in certain seasons in other cities, back East, for whom Goody Clancy has provided downtown redevelopment consulting.

Wichita, however, is a city of rather harsh weather, year-round. Wichita -- like much of Kansas -- can arguably be summarized as having just four kinds of weather:

  • HOT as Hell

  • COLD as Hell

  • WINDY as Hell

  • RAINY as Hell
The graph at right (click to enlarge), based on government data, shows that, on a monthly average, most days in Wichita get either too hot or too cold for comfort.

Not shown are the temperatures as actually experienced by people outdoors -- the "wind chill" index in cold weather, and "heat/humidity index" in hot weather, which would actually make the graph look worse.

Also not shown is that Wichita's relatively temperate seasons of spring and autumn are characterized, almost daily, by

  • HIGH WINDS (Wichita ranks among the top 20 most-windy towns in the nation -- and one of the top 10 most-windy major U.S. cities (population over 100,000) -- with an average wind just over 12mph -- worse than Chicago, "the Windy City") -- underscored by the fact that Wichita is one of the three main cities (along with Tulsa and Oklahoma City) in "Tornado Alley";


  • PRECIPITATION (which, in Wichita, commonly means not just rain, but also often snow, sleet, or hail, or a mix of these) -- commonly driven sideways (under canopies, awnings, umbrellas and other protections) by the Kansas wind.

    In short:  Wichita is definitely not an easy place to plan a picnic.

    And it's hardly a place conducive to walking, bicycling, or riding the bus (which involves waiting outdoors) -- as Wichita's traditionally very low use of such transportation demonstrates. Add the extreme distances from Downtown Wichita to Wichita's major employers (mostly on the periphery of the city, several miles away), and you can see that for Wichita, the personal automobile is very hard to replace for daily, all-weather commuter transportation, year-round.

    NOTE: Unlike the city's prime consultants, this author -- a former Wichita Traffic Commissioner -- has lived and worked extensively in Downtown Wichita and the surrounding area, and has years of experience commuting throughout the city, by foot, bicycle and bus, to major local employers (a practice he does NOT recommend to others).


    NOTE: The author of this web page neither endorses nor opposes these outside commentaries.   In the interest of presenting diverse perspectives, these articles are noted, and linked to, because of their value in providing informative and detailed views of the issue, from points of view significantly independent of, and different from, the official sources.

    Participate - Let your voice be heard!

  • For more details on Downtown Wichita issues,
    click on the detailed "2010..." or "News" tabs, below.


    2010 Jan/Feb
    2010 Charette
    2010 Spring