The Douglas Design District 2020 Vision Project
I moved back to Wichita, my hometown, last year after spending nearly 25 years in Chicago. I work in city revitalization and played a leadership role in transforming Chicago’s Loop from a singular office market into a mixed-use, “24/7” destination.
That’s my “street cred” to start a discussion about public spaces in Wichita. I believe Wichita’s future—population growth and economic expansion—is correlated to the city’s ability to create great new public spaces and walkable destinations.
Public spaces provide a city with an identity. Too many cities suffer from streets dedicated to moving high volumes of traffic quickly—a goal that effectively eliminates foot traffic and other features necessary for healthy street life and economic activity.
It’s not hard to fall in love with a city that offers great public spaces and walkable neighborhoods designed for people, rather than cars.
The 2020 Vision Project
I’ve been working with the Douglas Design District (DDD) the last several months on their “2020 Vision” which, at its heart, seeks to make the District a walkable, pedestrian-oriented destination.
The Douglas Design District Streetscape Improvement Plan covering Douglas between Washington and Grove was completed in 2009 and can be found here on DDD’s website.
Have you seen the painting of the street on Douglas east of downtown? The project is intended to bring vibrancy to Douglas but, importantly, the locations of the paint mimic where medians and bump-outs will be located if we can secure funding for a long-term infrastructure project.
The 2020 Vision project will reshape the area into a walkable destination by bringing medians, curb bump-outs, vertical parking, public gathering spaces, landscaping, public art and new human-scale lighting to this important stretch of Douglas. The project would provide an eastern gateway to downtown and create a neighborhood that people will drive to, rather than drive through.
Why The Project Matters
That neighborhood has been significantly improved since a pedestrian-oriented streetscape project was completed in 2003. The streetscape transformed Delano into one of the more interesting neighborhoods in the city that offers a strong mix of retailers, most of which are local businesses rather than national chains. The 2003 streetscape project made Delano a destination—and not a pass-through neighborhood.
One would be hard-pressed to find someone who thinks what’s happened in Delano in recent years has not been a success for Wichita. Studies show that walkable neighborhoods increase peoples’ attachment to a city. As we learned from the Chung Report, Wichita needs to offer a better quality of life to retain and attract talent to the city and grow our workforce.
The Douglas Design District Streetscape Improvement Plan helps achieve this and provides an important investment in the core of the city that will appeal to residents and visitors alike.
No doubt City Council faces real challenges in prioritizing capital projects. However, the Douglas Design District Streetscape Improvement Plan is one of the few capital projects that provide transformational pedestrian-focused benefits.
We Need Your Support
Let's harness the city pride Wichita is experiencing and direct it to fund a project that’s sure to benefit our city. Decisions related to funding this project will be made in the next couple months.
We ask Wichitans to advocate for this project by contacting Mayor Longwell, the City Manager and your local City Council representative. At the bottom of this page on DDD's site, you'll find a template letter you can use to get started.
Please tell them you support expediting the Douglas Design District Streetscape Improvement Plan.