Press Releases

News and updates directly from Wichita Downtown Development Corporation. 

WDDC Announces Westar Energy Downtown Development Internship at the Design & Innovation Center

WICHITA, Kan. - 3/7/2012 - Westar Energy has committed $10,000 toward the formation of the Westar Energy Downtown Development Internship program at the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation’s Design & Innovation Center. The Design & Innovation Center provides key resources in the development of Downtown Wichita.

According to Wichita Downtown Development Corporation (WDDC) President Jeff Fluhr, Westar’s generous contribution matches grant funds recently received from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation allocated to engaging architecture, landscape architecture and community planning students in the downtown planning and implementation process.

“We thank Westar for its commitment to the future of the region, Downtown and the young emerging professionals of Kansas,” Fluhr said. “We are excited about tapping into the talent of college students who will help us creatively shape downtown and our quality of place through design.”

The initial phase will provide for a full-time summer internship for an upper level college student in architecture or landscape architecture for this summer. The application process will be announced soon, and WDDC will work with universities in Kansas to promote the Westar internship. The second phase will feature ongoing connections to architecture, landscape architecture and planning classes in various downtown projects.

“With these resources, we’ll be able to provide tangible design concepts as we explore them with developers and investors in downtown Wichita,” Fluhr said. “We want to continue to enhance the development resources of the Design & Innovation Center. This capability will be a tremendous asset in illustrating the concepts we discuss.”

“Westar is committed to Wichita's downtown and providing bright students an opportunity to bring fresh ideas to make downtown an attractive, vibrant place where people want to live and work,” said Jim Ludwig, Westar’s executive vice president, public affairs and consumer services.

This is the second Knight Foundation grant received by the WDDC. The Knight Foundation provided initial funding for the WDDC in 2011 to implement the Design & Innovation Center, a one-stop resource for Downtown Wichita development.

“As college students graduate and consider the location of their career, we want to be sure they are connected to and know what’s going on in Kansas’ largest city as we move forward,” Fluhr said.

Westar Energy, Inc. (NYSE: WR) is the largest consolidated electric utility in Kansas, providing electric service to more than 687,000 customers in the state. Westar Energy has about 7,100 megawatts of electric generation resources and operates and coordinates more than 34,000 miles of electric distribution and transmission lines.

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WDDC Board Endorses “Yes” Vote for Ambassador Hotel Guest Tax Referendum 

WICHITA, Kan. - 2/22/2012 - The Wichita Downtown Development Corporation Board of Directors endorsed a “yes” vote on the February 28 referendum vote on use of the hotel guest tax. City of Wichita voters will vote on February 28 whether 75 percent of the hotel guest tax will be rebated to the developers for the first 15 years. Otherwise, the full 100 percent of the guest tax goes to the City of Wichita for convention and tourism related activities.

According to WDDC Board Chairman Tom Docking, there were a number of reasons the Board endorsed a “yes” vote.

− The project meets the criteria of the Project Downtown master plan developed with months of citizen input and extensive economic analysis.

− It was the first project to go through the new downtown development incentives policy process that has a committee of business people, planners and financial experts review all projects and provide a recommendation to the City Council.

− The building sat empty for 12 years generating $22,000 in yearly tax revenue. During the first year the Ambassador Hotel will generate more than $235,000 in additional tax revenue for the city, county and school district with that amount expected to increase.

− Project Downtown included the analysis that Wichita needs more than 400 hotel rooms downtown, and the Ambassador will create 117 rooms in a boutique hotel.

− The project has already been a catalyst for additional downtown projects with the entire city block now under redevelopment plans, including the Kansas Health Foundation’s new facility and the former Henry’s building, all of which will use the new parking garage.

“This is an exciting economic development opportunity,” said WDDC Chairman Tom Docking. “The opportunity to see an entire city block redevelop, jobs created and a beautiful and historic building coming back to life is a great opportunity for any city at any time, but especially during these economic times.”

WDDC President Jeff Fluhr said, “We have a lot of synergy going downtown with multiple projects, developers and opportunities. It’s important that potential local and national investors have predictability when it comes to working in Wichita.”

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Community Engagement Focus of New Knight Foundation Grants

WICHITA, Kan. - 1/24/2012 - Increasing community engagement is the central focus of three new grants announced today by the Wichita Community Foundation. The Wichita Downtown Development Corporation (WDDC), working with the Young Professionals of Wichita and Visioneering Wichita, will receive $125,000 for leading a community-wide discussion to set regional priorities for developing talent, place and opportunity in Wichita. Senior Services Inc. will receive $17,645 to enlarge their training programs for using iPad technology to Latino seniors. Real Men, Real Heroes will receive $2,783 for its teen mentoring program. The grants are part of the informed, engaged communities initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The WDDC grant, together with $82,000 in private and in-kind donations, will fuel a community wide discussion and resulting definition of the next level of development for Wichita. The goal is to answer the question: What priorities do we set to make Wichita an attractive place to live, work and play for the next generation of citizens. This grant award follows Knight’s recent investment in the WDDC Design and Innovation Center which opened in August of 2011. The new Design and Innovation Center is a venue that fosters community dialogue on various quality of life initiatives.

Senior Services, Inc. will provide free technology classes for Latino seniors at its LaFamilia and Orchard Park sites . The one year project hopes to reduce the isolation of low income senior Latinos by training them on iPads in their native language. Real Men Real Heroes will use their grant dollars to build a diverse, multicultural team of teen mentors who will function as both role models and spokespeople for its ongoing work in the community.

About the Wichita Community Foundation
Since 1986, the Wichita Community Foundation has been serving the philanthropic needs of the Wichita community. The Foundation's goal is to build a stronger city by investing in people, organizations and institutions so they can contribute to their neighborhoods and communities. The Foundation supports programs, projects, and organizations that creatively and successfully bind the community together to enrich the quality of life for all citizens.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged.

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Wichita Downtown Development Corporation Recipient of 2011 International Downtown Association Pinnacle Award

WICHITA, Kan. - 9/26/2011 - On Saturday, September 24, during its 57th Annual Conference in the City of Charlotte, North Carolina, the International Downtown Association (IDA) recognized the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation with IDA's highest honor, a Downtown Pinnacle Award for its Leadership and Management in the development of Downtown Wichita.

The Wichita Downtown Development Corporation was a national finalist in the category of Downtown Leadership and Management. This category features comprehensive and unique organizational approaches, projects, or programs that improved the effectiveness of Downtown management organizations.

"The Wichita Downtown Development Corporation received this prestigious award for demonstrating excellence in Downtown management," said David Downey, IDA President and CEO. "Each year the IDA Awards Jury honors the very best programs and projects in each category to recognize great work and most importantly to set the standard for best practice in the industry. The Wichita Downtown Development Corporation provides a great example for other development entities to emulate."

"Project Downtown is providing the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation a tremendous blueprint to develop Downtown" commented Jeff Fluhr, President of the WDDC. "Through dynamic partnerships with the public, philanthropic and private sectors; invaluable resources such as the Downtown Public Investment Policy, the new Design and Innovation Center, and the twelve-member Loan Consortium are now a reality and a model for other communities. We have a clear vision, defined development strategies and a commitment to implement the community's vision through Project Downtown."

The Washington, D.C. based International Downtown Association (IDA) is a champion for vital and livable urban centers and strives to inform, influence, and inspire downtown leaders and advocates. With over 550 national and international members, IDA is a guiding force in creating healthy and dynamic centers that anchor the well-being of towns, cities, and regions.

The Wichita Downtown Development Corporation is the advocacy and management organization representing the interests of property owners in Downtown Wichita and is a member of the International Downtown Association.

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Wichita Downtown Development Corporation names new executive vice president

WICHITA, Kan. - 3/3/2011 - Jason Gregory will join the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation (WDDC) team as its new executive vice president on March 14. A Wichita area native, Gregory brings a diverse background of business, landscape architecture, urban design, project management and construction.

Gregory received a bachelor's in business administration from Friends University in 2000 and a master's in landscape architecture from Kansas State University in 2004. His most recent position was as a project manager and cost analyst for Walz Harman Huffman Construction where he has overseen numerous commercial projects throughout the region.

As a graduate landscape architect he worked with Bowman Bowman Novick, a landscape architect firm in Kansas City, where he was involved in numerous projects, including several in Kansas City's downtown redevelopment.

"Jason has a great blend of experience that will be instrumental in advancing downtown's development," said WDDC President Jeff Fluhr. "He'll be able to work with all our stakeholders from business and developers to the public sector to help us achieve the vision we have set as a community. Jason will be a great addition to our team and efforts."

As the executive vice president, Gregory will play a major role in helping launch and guide various initiatives leading to the implementation of the Downtown Master Plan Project Downtown and WDDC's strategic business plan. He will provide key leadership with projects such as the WDDC Downtown Design Resource Center and the Downtown Visitors' Amenity Plan.

"I feel strongly that the continued growth and development of downtown Wichita is crucial to our community and our region," says Gregory. "To be a part of continuing to revitalize the urban core of Wichita is a tremendous opportunity for me, and I look forward to working with the leaders, volunteers and staff who have made Wichita's downtown an economic priority."

Information about the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation may be viewed at www.downtownwichita.org.

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Public Meeting to Present Draft Downtown Master Plan

WICHITA, Kan. - 6/4/2010 - The community will hear the first presentation on the draft Downtown Master Plan at a public meeting on Monday, June 14th at the Scottish Rite.

The Downtown Master Plan Team has been researching, analyzing the market, listening to the community and incorporating public feedback since November. The draft plan will be presented and initial feedback gathered. Follow-up workshops will go into more detail in different areas on Wednesday, June 16th.

Following the public meetings on June 14th and 16th, the Downtown Wichita Development Corporation, Visioneering Wichita and the City of Wichita will make presentations to groups throughout the regional community for additional public input. The Downtown Master Plan Team will incorporate the feedback gathered at the June and July presentations. The final plan will be presented in September.

Public Presentation – Draft Downtown Wichita Plan

Monday, June 14th

Scottish Rite

332 E. 1st Street

5:30 p.m. – Reception (light refreshments)

6:00 – 8:30 p.m. – Presentation and Input

People may RSVP for the meeting at info@downtownwichita.org or to (316) 264-6005.

During the public meeting, the Downtown Master Plan Team will share strategies for achieving the vision, identifying resources and the type of activity and development for Downtown Wichita.

Following Monday evening’s presentation, there will be three draft Downtown Plan Workshops that will go into more depth and discussion on various aspects of the draft plan.

Downtown Plan Workshops

Wednesday, June 16th

Bank of America Theatre

100 N. Broadway

8:00 – 9:30 a.m. – Enabling Downtown Development

3:30 – 5:00 p.m. – Creating Transportation Choices

5:30 – 7:00 p.m. – Creating Unique Places

 The master plan will provide a blueprint for downtown development. It will utilize economic research to maximize opportunity for private sector investment and return on investment of public dollars. Community input will shape the vision for downtown. Research shows thriving downtowns help regions retain and recruit people and businesses.

 For more information on the Downtown Master Plan process visit www.downtownwichita.org

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Cargill to Build New Innovation Center in Downtown Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. - 5/25/2010 - Cargill announced plans to build a new $14.7 million facility on Wichita Street between 1st and 2nd streets in Downtown Wichita. The facility will house research, development, culinary, laboratory, pilot plant and distribution capabilities.

“Cargill’s commitment to Wichita and especially to Downtown Wichita with this cutting-edge facility is exciting,” said Mayor Carl Brewer. “When a leading, global company like Cargill makes an announcement and investment in Wichita, we know it’s another step toward our goal of becoming a city of distinction. Building upon their downtown campus, they are greatly contributing to making our downtown a regional center.”

The facility will house 65 people in the downtown area close to Cargill’s U.S. meat business, headquartered at 151 North Main Street. The two-story facility is expected to be complete in June of 2011.

“The Cargill team has been great to work with throughout this process. They have, from the beginning, been committed to exploring avenues in design that demonstrate key urban principles from the emerging downtown master plan,” said Jeff Fluhr, president of Wichita Downtown Development Corporation. “They have also been a lead private sector partner in the development of a blueprint for Downtown and have provided important support and input.”

One of the largest employers in downtown Wichita, Cargill donated $25,000 toward the development of the downtown master plan.

“We are excited to move forward and invest in downtown Wichita through this new facility,” said Scott Eilert, Cargill vice president and director of meat technology development. “So many groups and people, including Mayor Brewer, have made this project a reality and we’re glad to be part of the new efforts in downtown.”

The downtown master planning team will incorporate the Cargill Innovation Center into the draft plan. The next step in the downtown planning process will be the presentation of the draft plan at a public meeting scheduled for Monday, June 14th. Following public input to the draft plan, the final plan will be presented in September.

“This project is building upon more than $100 million in ongoing downtown development activities ranging from riverfront improvements to renovating historic buildings to residential and more,” Fluhr said. “Cargill is a very important component of that momentum.”

The downtown master plan will utilize economic research to maximize opportunity for private sector investment and return on investment of public dollars. Community input will shape the vision for downtown. Research shows thriving downtowns help regions retain and recruit people and businesses.

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Downtown Planning Team Outlines Community Input Process

WICHITA, Kan. - 11/05/2009 - A six-month public engagement process seeking broad community input on downtown revitalization will kick off in early December.

The City of Wichita, the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation and Visioneering Wichita, working with various groups and downtown planning consultants Goody Clancy, outlined the public and stakeholder input process. The Goody Clancy team and its economic analysis partners will be in Wichita over the next few months to conduct numerous meetings to gather input.

“One of the reasons we chose Goody Clancy is because of their strength in getting the public involved in the planning process,” said Mayor Carl Brewer. “They have a great combination of holding more traditional public meetings combined with some new interactive technology. This will truly be our community’s plan.”

Public input processes planned include:

~ December 4 and 5 –“Walk-shops” will gather ideas through people taking and sharing digital photos of downtown through a process led by PlaceMatters, part of the Goody Clancy team. Three walk shop sessions are planned to encourage as much participation as possible. All will be held at the Eaton Block at 523 East Douglas (formerly Eaton Steakhouse).
     Friday, Dec. 4 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
     Saturday, December 5 – 9 a.m. to Noon and again from 12:30 to 3:30.
People interested in participating should sign up at Visioneering Wichita by calling (316) 268-1141 or by e-mail at dlongfellow@wichitachamber.org.

~ January 12 – A public meeting will present the results and themes from the Walk-shop process. Presentations will also cover a preliminary assessment of downtown housing and commercial market opportunities as a foundation for the overall plan. Breakout groups will allow people to discuss assets, challenges and goals for downtown Wichita. The meeting will be held in the evening with exact time and place to be determined.

~ February – On Saturday, February 27 individuals will be able to participate in a full-day, hands-on workshop to discuss visions, utilizing the economic and transportation analysis, and design principles. The event will follow the February 25th WDDC Annual Lecture with a speaker providing national perspectives on downtown revitalization. Place and specific times for the events will be announced.

~ March – A public meeting will present a preliminary vision and action strategies that integrate the community input with technical and economic analysis. Individuals will then provide feedback and discuss the information presented.

~ May – At a public meeting, the team will present the draft vision plan to allow discussion and input to the preliminary plan.

In addition to the monthly public input sessions, the Goody Clancy team is meeting each month with a variety of stakeholder individuals and regional groups, including Wichita City Council, Sedgwick County Commission, neighborhood groups, employers, arts and culture groups, developers, commercial brokers, retail, transportation, property owners, educational entities, churches and social service organizations. The Goody Clancy team began the stakeholder process this week, holding 45 meetings that involved more than 165 people. Input from stakeholder groups and the public will be integrated into the final draft plan.

“This is an exciting time for the future of our community,” said Larry Weber, WDDC Chairman. “In getting to this moment, we have known how much people want to be part of the planning process. We will continue to encourage everyone to be involved in the process and have their voices heard.”

Goody Clancy was selected in October to develop a plan for the core area that focuses on:
· Connecting and maximizing various downtown areas, including Old Town, INTRUST Bank Arena and the River Corridor
· Community input to define the vision for downtown
· Specific implementation strategies and economic analysis to maximize private sector investment and return on investment of public dollars

The City of Wichita has committed $225,000 for a downtown comprehensive strategic plan. The Wichita Downtown Development Corporation provided $175,000 with an additional $100,000 from businesses, organizations and individuals contributing to the plan.

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INTRUST Bank commits $10,000 for comprehensive downtown plan

 

WICHITA, Kan. - 7/28/2009 - The Wichita Downtown Development Corporation (WDDC) announced that INTRUST Bank committed $10,000 to fund the downtown master plan. This brings the private sector total to $86,000.

“INTRUST Bank plays a large role in helping our community and our downtown continue to work toward achieving our vision,” said Mayor Carl Brewer. “It’s commitment to downtown through the INTRUST Bank Arena is just one part of the bank’s leadership in this community.”

In addition to the private sector funding, the WDDC Board of Directors committed $175,000 to a downtown comprehensive strategic plan and the Wichita City Council unanimously voted to put $225,000 to a comprehensive plan.

“The business community keeps responding to this opportunity and we so appreciate their support,” said Larry Weber, WDDC Chairman. “INTRUST Bank has been committed to downtown for years, and their donation to this effort continues that tradition.”

The City of Wichita received 32 proposals in response to its request for qualifications. A selection committee last week narrowed the field to four finalists who will receive a request for proposals. The finalist firms were chosen in part because of their track record in downtown plans that produced high levels of private sector investment. A consultant team is expected to be named in September after public presentations by the finalists the week of September 21.

WDDC’s mission is to drive development in downtown Wichita. According to case studies, downtown revitalization benefits communities through new and retained jobs, increased private investment, increased property tax revenue, increased tourism revenue and improved perceptions. The WDDC has released a new website where the community may obtain the latest information on downtown’s development as well as the new downtown plan. The site is www.downtownwichita.com.

The WDDC is a non-profit organization focused on stimulating interest and investment in Downtown. The organization is governed by its Board of Directors consisting of property and business owners from the Downtown area. The Board represents more than 1,400 businesses in the center city and directs and manages the WDDC’s efforts to revitalize the Downtown area.

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Fidelity Bank commits $15,000 for comprehensive downtown plan.

WICHITA, Kan. - 7/24/2009 - The Wichita Downtown Development Corporation (WDDC) announced that Fidelity Bank committed $15,000 to fund the downtown master plan. This brings the private sector total to $76,000.

“We appreciate the leadership that Fidelity Bank has shown for downtown and their support in our community’s efforts to plan for our economic future,” said Larry Weber, WDDC Chairman. “The private sector has continued to step up and demonstrate how important it is to develop a comprehensive plan.”

In addition to the private sector funding, the WDDC Board of Directors committed $175,000 to a downtown comprehensive strategic plan and the Wichita City Council unanimously voted to put $225,000 to a comprehensive plan.

“Fidelity Bank represents the heart of downtown and the heart of our business community,” said Mayor Carl Brewer. “Through various efforts, including refurbishing the Wichita Carnegie Library Building, Fidelity Bank has committed for years to advancing our city and our downtown.”

The City of Wichita has received 32 proposals in response to its Request for Qualifications. A selection committee will narrow the field of finalists this week. A consultant team is expected to be named in October after public presentations by the finalists.

WDDC’s mission is to drive development in downtown Wichita. According to case studies, downtown revitalization benefits communities through new and retained jobs, increased private investment, increased property tax revenue, increased tourism revenue and improved perceptions. The WDDC has established a website where the community may provide ongoing input on the vision for downtown. The site is www.momentum-ict.com.

The WDDC is a non-profit organization focused on stimulating interest and investment in Downtown. The organization is governed by its Board of Directors consisting of property and business owners from the Downtown area. The Board represents more than 1,400 businesses in the center city and directs and manages the WDDC’s efforts to revitalize the Downtown area.

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