Downtown Development Gaining Momentum

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Development in downtown Wichita has been gaining traction.

From some of the world's largest corporations to small, local businesses, several construction projects have been completed downtown. Even more are getting underway.

"Throughout the whole downtown area, we're seeing a lot of different projects that are emerging; being done right now," said Juff Fluhr, President of Wichita Downtown Development Corporation.

That means a lot of money has been pumped into downtown Wichita in the past couple of years.

"Last year, we had about $60 million in projects that were completed, About $94 million (worth) were started." Fluhr said. "A lot of those will be done this year, 2012, and already this year we're seeing well over $20 million in projects that have been announced."

One of the projects just wrapping up is an expansion to local advertising agency Howerton+White, Inc. The company could have built a brand new building away from downtown for much less money than it cost to expand onto the second floor of its current building on Douglas Avenue.

"It's where our roots are," said Bryan Malone, explaining the firm's decision to remain downtown. "We get a lot of our business from the community, so we want to reinvest in the community."

Malone says the agency's clients like to see creativity, which was another reason for renovating an older downtown Wichita building into modern office space. Howerton+White also invested in having more fun around the office, another thing Malone said clients appreciate. That's the reason for the presence of a 13-foot slide running from the second floor to the first floor.

Some of the firm's clients include many of the organizations working to redevelop downtown Wichita.

"It's a partnership that we see the payoff in easily," Malone said. "If we're getting more business here and it's growing, there's a greater chance that we're going to be able to work with those people. And that's helped us with the growth that we've had."

The focus of downtown redevelopment has shifted heavily toward creating downtown living space. About 260 units are already or soon will be under construction downtown, Fluhr said.

"Residential is key," he said. "I think as we continue to build that part of our downtown environment, you will see new restaurants and new retail coming in."

For Fluhr, all off the work going on downtown is helping Wichita become an economically healthy city.

"I think that we're well on our way to creating a very strong downtown that will help us compete," he said. "It will help us to be able to recruit and also retain the employment base that industries need in our area."

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