Naftzger Park redesign is revealed amid concerns over homeless population

WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

The redesign of a downtown Wichita Park, put on hold because of concerns from the public, is moving forward.

It's a plan that's been in the works for years, and after a series of public meetings, the final renderings of Naftzger Park have been revealed.

"I think it's going to be huge," said Tom Balsley, founder of SWA Balsley, the architectural firm that helped plan the new design.

Along with a dog park and stage, visitors will have plenty of open space, lined with trees and benches.

Some of the ideas for the park came from the public.

"I hope people will be able to see a little bit of what they might have said in it," added Balsley.

"It was nice to see that they really did make use of some of the suggestions, some of the criticisms," said Russell Arben Fox, who attended the public meetings in 2017.

But what's not been addressed is what to do with the park's homeless population.

"When this project started, there was a little push back, concerns about the homeless population, the fact that the park was nice as it was," said City Councilman Brandon Johnson, who represents District One.

Russell Arben Fox calls it a big concern.

"Those people are people down on their luck, struggling for one reason or another; they need a place for them to sleep," said Fox.

"That comment was taken very seriously by the design team," said Wichita City Manager Robert Layton. "We met with agencies that serve the homeless in the community and showed them this design before we made it public. They gave us some great ideas. They wanted that to be emphasized, not necessarily that we're going to do an outdoor bedroom, but at the same time not build a park that is exclusive."

No definitive deadline has been given for the redesign of Naftzger Park, but, pending approval from Wichita City Council, it will be completed in phases. The first phase is expected to be finished by 2019.