How Downtown Wichita Got Its Groove Back
Long before I came to Wichita, I grew up in rural North Carolina, but as long as I can remember I’ve had my eye on the glittering lights of the big city. In my twenties, I lived in Charlotte NC, near downtown for about 10 years. However, when I met my wife we moved out to the suburbs and stayed there until we moved to Wichita in 2014 and once again grabbed a house out on the east end of town.
Ever since we’ve settled in, we’ve had our eye on downtown Wichita living, and I’m proud to say that we recently became denizens of downtown Wichita. And we’re not the only ones who desire to downsize and leave a smaller footprint. It's contagious, and as a result, Wichita’s downtown seems to be in the midst of a renaissance with a number of downtown living options leading the way.
What Downtown America Used to Be
Back in the day, living downtown was a no brainer for most people. Before the invention of shopping malls, the center of town was the place to be. Back then, downtowns were bustling epicenters of activity with shops and businesses as well as inhabitants who worked and lived there. However, times change and decades of decline, due to urban sprawl, left downtowns vacant across the country.
The people left downtown for the suburbs, businesses left for the large shopping malls. As a result, downtown areas across the nation were left neglected and empty with Wichita being no exception. Empty store fronts and failed development projects filled downtown.
When I first moved to Wichita, they had just started trying to fill in the pit between Main and Market, a leftover from a failed project that was nicknamed “Lake Douglas” when it rained.
Downtown Wichita Today
But what a change a few years make! The pit is gone, replaced by the “Pop Up Park”, a bustling area of art and food trucks. A more popular lunch spot you would be hard pressed to find during the warmer months. Delano has continued to develop into a popular destination, Old Town continues to grow and the brand new Union Station shows a lot of promise. But at the center of all this growth lies one driving factor, the addition of attractive living options in downtown, which are bringing in a wide variety of tenants, all helping drive a renaissance of growth that shows no signs of slowing down.
Recent years have seen an explosion in property development in the downtown area with Eaton Place, The Renfro, The Lux, The Douglas Apartments, Finn Lofts to name a few, and River Vista due to open in the Spring of next year. All of these properties have a wide variety of amenities such as Free Wifi, parking garages, gyms and in the case of the Douglas, a rooftop pool, fire pits and grills as well as a dog park for your four-legged friends! The Douglas even has a bike room to store your bike if you inclined to take advantage of all the bike lanes and trails that have popped up in the area.
What's to Come?
Personally, I’m anxious to see where all this influx of people takes downtown. Already commercial spaces have been popping up in the Douglas / Market St area with a new Grocery Store set to open sometime in July. In addition to the popup park, two restaurants, Taste of Times Square and Downtown Cafe have seen an uptick in customers with Taste of Times Square seeing enough of an increase to warrant staying open later in the evenings. There is a rumored coffee house coming to the space currently occupied by the Douglas rental office and also a bank that may be opening in the bottom of tower two of the Douglas.
I can’t wait to see how all of this develops, and I’m excited to see a city I love so much continue to grow!