Developer: Let’s spend $1 billion on Wichita’s downtown in next 10 years
Downtown development advocates such as Jeff Fluhr have talked lately about Wichita being in the midst of a transformative moment.
George Laham thinks it’s time to kick it up a notch.
“You want vision?” Laham asked a group of WBJ Emerging Leaders on Thursday. “Let’s talk about a billion-dollar decade.”
Laham, the founder of Laham Development, made his comments during a panel discussion on downtown development at the Kansas Leadership Center. About 50 WBJ Emerging Leaders attended the event.
“Look at Delano, it’s up and coming,” Laham said. “The city is working really hard getting things going with the ballpark and around it. Certainly, River Vista and some of the things coming around it — it’s exciting.”
“Century II and the convention center will take leadership and that’s going to take a lot of money, but take all of that — and more — and I could see us spending a billion dollars on our downtown in the next 10 years and making it one of the great downtowns in America.”
Laham Development is behind the construction of the River Vista apartment complex on the banks of the Arkansas River, which is still being constructed.
On a panel that included Fluhr, the Greater Wichita Partnership president; City Councilwoman Cindy Claycomb, Martin Pringle Law Firm Managing Partner Stan Smith, and small business owner and Douglas Design District advocate Janelle King, there was no shortage of forward-looking ideas.
Laham’s comment, however, stood out. It even received a round of applause from his audience of young business leaders.
“Probably the most important component of that is you,” Laham told the group. “Young leaders are so important to that vision and that commitment to downtown.”
Fluhr said that cities like Pittsburgh, Nashville and Chattanooga, Tenn., were in similar positions as Wichita before going through transformative time periods.
“Those cities asked what they wanted to achieve and thought about what would set them apart,” Fluhr said. “Then they figured out how to make it happen. I believe that, in a city with so much history in innovation and entrepreneurship, we have the DNA to do these things.”
“I believe, as George said, that we’re in that moment. Let’s push the envelope.”
Wichita Business Journal
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