McLean highway sign

Opinion: East Bank expansion needs closer inspection


McLean highway sign

Since I no longer live in Wichita (I'm in the process of handing off DelanoWichita ownership) and can't just pop in to talk to some of my usual advisors, I don't have enough information to make a recommendation, nor do I have a real stake in the outcome of the upcoming annexation proposal. But there are some outstanding factors that my experience leads me to point out. Here are a few to consider.

This is a rush project

The State of Kansas wants the request to be submitted before the end of the year. With no notification other than the minimum legal requirement (or at least one hopes minimums have been met), this doesn't give Delano much time to research the topic, especially going into the busiest time for our retailers (who have the most at stake). And probably most people affected don't even know what exactly a STAR bond is yet, so just getting everyone up to speed will take time.

This project is rolled into an existing downtown project

Delano needs to question whether it would be better served by its own, distinct project. Ask Planning and the City Council why, if Delano is a target for real "redevelopment," it has never been given its own wayfinding signs. There is one (sadly faded, nearly illegible) sign on Seneca just south of Douglas, installed as an (inaccurate) afterthought only after repeated requests for recognition. There is no sign at any of Delano's exits for Kellogg, and the highway-style sign on McLean (nominally a scenic boulevard) directs traffic to places as far away as Old Town without mentioning that one is in Delano. (Unless you count "River Center" - do you know where that is?) Delano's riverfront is a treasure that could certainly use some investment and development - not a rush job, and there needs to be a mechanism in place to make sure the dollars stay on the Delano side of the river instead of being used to prop up east-bank development.

Disrupting downtown Delano will damage all of Wichita

While there's certainly a lot of potential along the west bank, and something probably needs to be done about Lawrence-Dumont, the downtown Delano ecosystem needs to be left alone as much as possible. Our downtown is a constant churn of small businesses. Many fail or move out, and others pop up to take their place. That "or move out" is critical - count the number of restaurants and retail shops in Old Town alone that got their start in Delano. Many cities pump a lot of money into areas like Delano, trying to subsidize their way to the success that has happened here grassroots-style with only a nearly-twenty-year-old streetscape investment. With no formal business/landlord association, and minimal buy-in to Delano United, Delano doesn't have a voice to speak up for its downtown. But without Delano to serve as a "farm team," other districts in Wichita will see a poorer selection of new restaurants and retailers.

Delano is Wichita's most prolific small-business incubator - don't break it.

So, to sum up: It may not be bad! But check it out thoroughly. And quickly.

Visitors OCTOBER 29, 2016

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