Dine, shop, work, play, live – you can do all that and more in downtown Wichita. About 2,000 people currently reside in the district, which features a smorgasbord of restaurants, bars and nightlife in addition to retail shops, recreational activities, museums, galleries and theaters within walking distance of most downtown homes.
“Residential living is a huge key to our downtown success in the future, and we want to substantially increase that residential population in the months and years to come,” says Jeff Fluhr, president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp.
“If we increase our rooftop base, it will attract more restaurants, retail and cultural attractions. Our ultimate goal is for downtown Wichita to be alive 24/7.” The residential initiative is the key part of a 2009 planning development endeavor called Momentum, which is examining the future of downtown Wichita for the next 10-20 years.
“The Downtown Development Corporation, in partnership with the private sector and the city of Wichita, are embarking upon this new Momentum plan,” Fluhr says. “One key aspect is to further build upon all of the successes that the district already has in place, such as Old Town, WaterWalk shopping, the Broadview Hotel, museums, performing arts venues, the Riverfront area and the INTRUST Bank Arena [slated to open in January 2010].” Fluhr adds that downtown is lucky to have the Arkansas River running through it, because it makes an ideal setting for future iconic projects.
“Wichita is the largest city in the state, and our downtown is a regional draw for many visitors,” he says. “But still, our No. 1 emphasis is to get more residents to choose the downtown district.” So what is currently happening to attract more occupants to downtown Wichita? For starters, a total of 268 apartment units have been under construction in 2009, and loft condominiums are now available at WaterWalk, a mixed-use project with retail, restaurants and entertainment. Another residential hot spot is the Garvey Center, a 26-story tower that was constructed in 1971 as a Holiday Inn.
The hotel closed in 1993 and sat vacant for seven years before its conversion into an office space, meeting facility and apartments for occupancy.
“We really started the residential craze because our apartments that originally leased in 2000 were the first ones available downtown,” says Larry Weber, vice president of Builders Inc., which owns the Garvey Center. “Our towering apartment complex is in the heart of everything and overlooks everything, and we are booked up.” Weber adds that downtown Wichita is an ideal place to live because it is safe, and the entertainment scene is becoming increasingly vibrant.
“Everything is within walking distance in the heart of downtown, and there is an excitement in the district,” he says. “It gets more and more interesting all the time.”