What is the 2020 Vision campaign?
How will it affect me? How will it affect my business?
We know that what happens along Douglas Ave is important to each of you, and it's our hope to address the 'myths'
and questions that we've been hearing and get you more in-depth information about what it all means and what is next.
"There is no information publicly available about what is happening or what’s next, and no one available to address my questions and concerns.”
Communication and transparency is a priority to us. The Douglas Design District website has a wealth of information regarding the 2020 Vision and what is happening within the membership based organization, including an email newsletter sign up and social media links to stay informed. In addition, monthly member mixers offer a great way to meet DDD board members and city officials, as available, to get additional information and questions answered.
As a District we try to do our absolute best to maintain open communication with our members. Probably one of the best places to get the most thorough information is our website. The site not only covers our members and information about them, but click on the 'ABOUT' link and you'll find a wealth of information about the District, the 2020 Vision Campaign, the East Douglas Infrastructure Project, and more.
Other venues of communication include:
- Social Media: We have accounts through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Each account covers different content, so be sure to follow all three!
- Newsletter: Goes out every month, in the middle of the month, and contains a wealth of information for members (want to make sure you're on the mailing list? Email us at email@example.com)
- Member Mixer: This networking event is held on the 3rd Monday of each month, and gives members the opportunity to chat with each other, and Board members, as well as learn more about reaping the full benefits of membership. It's held at a different location each month, but will always be advertised on Facebook, in the newsletter, and on our Calendar of Events.
- Podcast: Our newest addition, the DDD Podcast covers DDD membership news, as well as promotes ongoing events and promotions. You can catch episodes on the webpage, or subscribe via iTunes.
- Email: If nothing else, you can always get your questions answered by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click on the link below for a detailed plan of the East Douglas Revitalization Plan, created by the City of Wichita.
The painted streetscape is a project that was conceptualized by the Douglas Design District and Bill Gardner of Gardner Design, and approved by the city's Design Council last December. In an effort to continue to build community engagement in the District, as well as prepare Douglas for the East Douglas Improvement Project, the City agreed to fund the paint and labor for preparing the street and painting the streetscape, about $30,000 total.
The remainder of the cost of the project was estimated to cost around $10,000 which included supplies, project management, and creating the large stencils that will be used to paint the design. This money was given to the District by Jill Docking, in honor of her late husband, Tom Docking. Jill specifically wanted to ensure that the painted streetscape would happen as she knew that this was something that Tom would appreciate and support.
Current dates for the painted streetscape project are Friday, April 13th, with completion on Friday, April 20th, weather pending. The painting will run from Washington to Hydraulic, along Douglas. Volunteer opportunities are available for anyone interested in helping with the project. The painted streetscape mimics elements of the infrastructure project so the City can test out turn radius at corners, and determine if medians and bump outs work given traffic and pedestrian patterns. In short, they'll be able to see how the infrastructure improvements work, well before construction actually begins.
No member dues have been used to cover any of the costs of the streetscape, or the 2020 Vision campaign. Next week, we will delve further into the overall funding of the 2020 Vision campaign, as well as the current income and expenses for the Design District.
Chasing A Vision
We want to highlight this recent story from The Chung Report, regarding our painted streetscape project. If you're not familiar with The Chung Report, it is the product of multi-year research commissioned by the Wichita Community Foundation and completed by James Chung and his New York-based strategy firm. The conclusion of the report, which can be seen in it entirety here, is that Wichita faces four major challenges today: Business Cycle, Human Capital, Entrepreneurship, and Perception.
A lot of our vision for the Douglas Design District is in direct answer to the challenges outlined by The Chung Report. We're pleased that the group has acknowledged the strides we've made already in addressing some of the challenges so far, as it gives us validation that we're definitely moving in the right direction with our growth and development.
"The proposed East Douglas Infrastructure Project goal is to decrease Douglas vehicle traffic lanes, traffic speeds, and vehicle counts in exchange for a more pedestrian-friendly avenue.”
There is no reduction to quantity of traffic lanes or speed limit, remaining accessible for existing traffic counts, but with the added advantage of more parking and a more pedestrian-friendly avenue. We view this as a win-win.
We see a three-mile, tree-lined corridor of businesses and residences in a warm neighborhood setting, along well-swept Douglas Avenue, between Old Town and Oliver. Here you'll find miles of locally owned stores, trendy shops, cafes, and pubs. Some are quaint, some funky, some cosmopolitan, but all intriguing and full of life. These unique shops and businesses are inter-mixed with charming residential neighborhoods, townhouses and loft apartments.The District will be a magnet for new design businesses and a compelling location for new business to start-up in general. The area will have an image as a trendsetter and a place to discover exciting new home fashion, apparel, dining, entertainment, and many other products and services.
In order for this to come to fruition, the City of Wichita and the Douglas Design District created plans known as the East Douglas Infrastructure Project back in 2009, which specifically targets the area from Washington to Hydraulic on Douglas. The project then fell under the City budget as a Capital Improvement Project (CIP) in 2015, and has been in the queue for well over 10 years now (with current construction initiation date targeted for 2023). Part of the 2020 Vision campaign is to lobby the City and our Council to move that start date up to 2020, as we see it transforming the District and bringing valuable benefits to the community at large.
While it is true that we absolutely hope to create safety enhancements for pedestrians and foot traffic, the plans DO NOT restrict current traffic counts or decrease number of lanes. Douglas Avenue is large enough that it can account for medians and extended sidewalks, without giving up lanes of traffic. There has been discussion about reducing the current speed limit of 35 down to 30mph, but that is still under negotiation. Also keep in mind that when the project does get voted on by the City Council, the City's engineering department will update plans with greater specificity and continue to share those updates with the community before moving forward. One of our objectives for this 2020 Vision campaign is that we can continue to hold the City accountable for this commitment.
As mentioned in previous emails, the painted streetscape was created to not only give color and vibrancy to the District, but also mimic the medians and bump-outs from the Infrastructure Project. If you haven't had a chance to see these in person, you should go check it out.
"The proposed Business Improvement District (BID) is going to increase the sales tax in the area, and is being implemented and dictated without the support or input of the businesses it would affect."
A BID is not a tax and will not affect sales tax. It would be an (as yet) undetermined assessment amount agreed upon via a democratic process by a majority support of the businesses within to contribute to the betterment of the District including, but not limited to: beauty and safety enhancements, special events and promotions, communication and civic advocacy.
Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are based on creating attractive commercial districts that inspire shoppers and make an environment conducive to thriving businesses. An increase in foot traffic, retails sales, and property values has been shown to occur in over 1,000 BIDs throughout the United States. In terms of the Douglas Design District, we also see the BID benefiting non-retail spaces in terms of attracting and retaining talent in Wichita.
Previously, the City planned to charge a special assessment to businesses with frontage along the East Douglas Infrastructure Project. The Douglas Design District's advocacy has led the City to eliminate this 'special.' Instead, through a BID, the DDD can create a business plan that funds a more robust set of programs that might include landscaping, place-making, safety enhancements, clean-up, marketing and events.
The important thing about all of this however, is that the assessment created by a Business Improvement District IS NOT A TAX. It's not imposed by government, but instead is a funding model created by the businesses within the Business Improvement District. A BID would establish a more fair (where everyone contributes), and more predictable funding model in order to achieve organizational goals. Approximately one-third of businesses in the DDD's project area are DDD members, and yet ALL businesses benefit from our efforts. A BID eliminates the 'free rider' problem, and if implemented, would allow the DDD to have a singular focus on implementing the BID business plan rather than always chasing membership.
Within the next few months, communication will continue with businesses to gain more input on what our District wants in terms of priorities for the business plan. The important take aways here are that the funding model and business plan are created by the businesses in the Business Improvement District, and that the final assessment amounts are then based on that business plan. This business plan is re-evaluated annually and if it's not working, then the BID can be dissolved.
Our hope is that businesses understand that a Business Improvement District has the potential to really catalyze growth and development for all businesses in the District, and create a more sustainable and valuable funding model.
"The Douglas Design District Board of Directors is an acting organization representing the City of Wichita."
The DDD Board is a separate 501c3 organization made up of volunteers that own a business or work within the District who share a common interest in the betterment of the area. The Board is committed to advocating on behalf of its members with the City of Wichita by providing a platform where their voice can be amplified through joint cause. DDD is not responsible for communications or notifications on behalf of the City, although strive to stay informed and share with acting members.
The Douglas Design District is a 501c3 non-profit civic organization. Our operating budget and finances are based solely on voluntary membership dues and fundraising, and all operations of the organization are fulfilled by a volunteer Board of Directors, and committee members. These volunteers are all owners or employees in the District, and are deeply committed to improving their neighborhood and community.
We are incredibly proud of the progress and state of the District currently.. A lot has been accomplished over the years, by a small group of passionate people. As we continue to get feedback about the District however, we feel we have reached a plateau in what we can provide our members and continue to do, based on a solely volunteer work force. We see formal Districts (both in Wichita, as well as other areas of the country) that have been able to leverage their municipalities for office space and full-time staff, and we feel like our District and our members deserve this sort of organizational structure and consistency as well. (We also feel like a democratic Business Improvement District is the best structure for this).
And while it is true that we have a fairly good relationship with the City of Wichita, and do a considerable amount of advocating on behalf of our members with the City, we are not synonymous or in charge of what they do (or don't do). We have gone to them about our members' frustrations regarding lack of communication or decisions they've made, but at the end of the day the City is and must be held accountable as a separate entity from us.
We hope that everyone earnestly understands that the Douglas Design District as an organization is actively working for these improvements on behalf of our business owners (current members or not) because we deeply believe that it will help in the growth, development and facilitation of individual businesses and industry in the District. It's true that growth and change can oftentimes be uncomfortable and difficult, but we have 2020 Vision for this District... can you see it too?