WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – East or west? It’s a controversial topic for Wichitans and while the east side has seen a lot of expansion, the west side is picking up.
The Babies R Us building was sitting vacant, but now a plumbers and pipefitters training area will be moving in. A block away, the vacant Kmart building will be turned into a furniture store. Also, TowneWest Square is seeing new shops come in.
City council members in these districts said it is needed after a slowdown in business in years past. In northwest Wichita, District 5 city council member Bryan Frye said the area is growing.
“District 5 had the second-highest number of new family homes over the last 10 years, so we’re seeing a lot of families move into the district,” said Frye. “You’re seeing all this investment, and that’s creating commercial and industrial opportunities as well.”
Frye said Maize Road is becoming a hotbed for restaurants and retail. Ridge Road is becoming a medical corridor, and Hoover Road is more of the industrial part of the district.
Frye said there’s a lot of vacant lands which has been attractive for businesses, but there is a missing piece.
“We just haven’t seen the big employment centers yet. It’s all been service-related and amenities,” said Frye.
On the southwest side of Wichita, District 4 city council member Jeff Blubaugh said there is a movement for business as well.
“With inflation and construction improvements, everything costs so much more, and I think a lot of people are going to dig into some of these older buildings and realize it’s a lot cheaper to renovate them and increase our footprint here and in a good area of town,” said Blubaugh.
Blubaugh said West Street is more industrial, which is pairing well with retail.
He said TowneWest Square is seeing more business and vacant buildings being filled.
Both council members agree, the area is being brought back to life.
“I think now you’re going to see the resurgence, and they’re going to start to grow again, as these other suburban locations have matured a little bit in their own growth,” said Blubaugh.
“For us to be a successful city, all the parts of Wichita need to grow and so I hope what we’re doing here can be seen as potential for down south or southeast and continue to push,” said Frye.
As for the next steps to keep this momentum going, Frye said he is getting the discussion going about working on infrastructure from K-96 to Kellogg near Goddard. This would help bring in business.
Blubaugh said he is hearing people want more sit-down restaurants in the southwest side, especially after many closed during the pandemic.