Innovation Campus’ apartment-building craze hasn’t lifted area neighborhoods or enriched community members, businesses or developers.
by Bonita Gooch
There’s no way to miss the wave of development that has taken place in recent years on Wichita State University’s campus and on private property immediately adjacent to the university. Corporate offices are being built on the university’s Innovation Campus and hundreds of new market-rate apartments have been built in the Fairmount area just south of the campus.
But this development has done little to enrich the surrounding neighborhoods, the residents in them, or business members in our community, who would like to have grown financially from this expansive development.
A lot of the development was fueled by current and anticipated growth in WSU enrollment and programming. However, development in the area was largely enhanced by the designation of the WSU campus and the Fairmount area as an Opportunity Zone.
Implemented as part of the bi-partisan Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Opportunity Zones were designed to serve as a catalyst for development in underserved areas by offering significant tax breaks and credits to the project owner.
Different from other federal housing and community development programs, Opportunity Zones encouraged investment in larger private projects, but the scale of the projects typically meant the investors are not connected to the community.
While the projects can be transformative to neighborhoods that have historically been left behind, history has repeatedly demonstrated these investments lead to gentrification, do little to strengthen existing residents, businesses and the culture in these neighborhoods.
What communities of color and low-income neighborhoods want from Opportunity Zone projects are investments that offer new ways to build community wealth while lifting up their neighborhoods.
Instead, similar to trends around the country, members of Wichita’s Black community have not benefited from the WSU and Fairmount Park area development, even when they’ve wanted to.
The new apartment buildings are now a prominent feature of the streets south of 17th and west of Oliver. Signs are everywhere that the area is ripe for the development of businesses that provide the amenities that the thousands of students, the workers on the Innovation Campus AND THE STILL REMAINING COMMUNITY RESIDENTS need and want – a grocery store, drug store, restaurants, entertainment venues and specialty shops.
There are community members who see the potential to share in the development and growth still to come.
The Voice talked to two property owners, each of whom has an interest in seeing future development spread in a way that will help uplift the community, sustain its culture and help build community wealth.
They talked about their dreams and the challenges to seeing them brought to fruition.
Since 1996, Bonita has served as as Editor-in-Chief of The Community Voice newspaper. As the owner, she has guided the Wichita-based publication’s growth in reach across the state of Kansas and into the Kansas City metro area; and in a period of decreasing newspaper circulation, she increased the publications to one of the largest non-daily newspapers in Kansas. Bonita has always insisted on providing high-quality journalism focused on the interest and needs of the African-American readers in her distribution areas. Her commitment is to positively enhancing the lives of her her readers and their communities. In her spare time, Bonita is an avid tennis player and gardener.
This article was republished here with the permission of: The Community Voice