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Fort Wayne group visits Wichita in search of civic insights

Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 8:08 am

A crew of community leaders from Fort Wayne plans to spend part of Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Wichita to see what lessons Fort Wayne can learn from the biggest city in Kansas.

Cheri Becker, the executive director of Leadership Fort Wayne, which organized the trip, thinks there will be plenty to see and inspiration to derive.

Wichita is “a similar size to us with a manufacturing background,” she said, adding that Wichita has pursued a downtown and riverfront revitalization with considerable success.

Since Wichita adopted a master plan for its downtown development in 2010, more than $180 million has been invested in Wichita's there, downtown, including three new hotels, a new YMCA and streetscape and riverfront improvements. That's the kind of downtown development Fort Wayne is pursuing, and Becker said the Fort Wayne visitors hope to find out more about what Wichita has done that Fort Wayne hasn't, such as offering different incentives for downtown development.

The 21-person contingent traveling from Fort Wayne to Wichita this week includes Fort Wayne City Councilman Tom Smith, Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters, New Haven Mayor Terry McDonald, plus other government, business, education and economic-development leaders.

While in Wichita, members of the group will meet for discussions with the leaders of economic development, downtown development, local government and tourism in Wichita.

The core attraction, Becker said, is the emphasis that Wichita has placed on riverfront and downtown development.

“Those are things we really feel will be catalytic to downtown development,” she said. “It's an opportunity to meet like-minded people who've been through the challenges we face.”