WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Community leaders announced Thursday plans for a Riverfront Legacy Master Plan, a comprehensive vision that connects projects and both banks of the Arkansas River.
The vision and plan are still in early stages but will consider a performing arts center, convention center, Century II, the former library and pedestrian bridge among other elements.
“We’ve got one chance to do it really well for generations to come,” Evan Rosell, VP of projects for the Greater Wichita Partnership said.
Rosell wants it to be a place where the community can gather and put on events.
Over two decades ago, seven-term Wichita mayor Bob Knight also had a vision for the riverfront, but things were in a much different place. The river was so polluted, it limited opportunities for business in the area but successfully avoided becoming a superfund site.
“I don’t think you can overstate the importance of the river to this community,” Knight told KSN.
What exists today along the east bank of the river is similar and different than Knight’s vision years ago.
For example, Knight would have preferred a Bass Pro Shops with wide windows looking out at the river instead of the since-closed Gander Mountain Outdoors store.
“I think boldness is good,” Knight said of the plan.
Knight knows Wichitans are protective of two things: the river and their tax dollars. He fought pushback when McLean was altered to accomodate Exploration Place.
“I hope they spend as much time on financial nomenclature as they are on their dreams and aspirations,” Knight said.
Funding for the Riverfront Legacy Master Plan is in the works.
“It is expected that the lead organizations will fund a significant portion of developing a comprehensive master plan along with some anticipated public funding from the City of Wichita and Sedgwick County,” a press release said.
The next step will be developing a scope for the project.
“We’ve got one riverfront, one opportunity to get this right so the desire here is to move quickly and also strategically,” Rosell said.