Guest Blog: Supporting a 'Culture of Yes' and the future of the DDD

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Note: The following is a guest post submitted by Ken Stoppel, owner of Building Controls & Services, located in the District. Ken is a former Board Member with the DDD, as well as a current Executive Committee Member and has been placed on the Business Improvement District Planning Committee.

As a lifelong Wichitan, I am pleased to support the efforts of the Douglas Design District to better their district and my hometown – the city I love.  

The DDD is a tireless advocate for community betterment. From adding over 40+ public murals to the District over the last four years, to the innovation of a colorful painted streetscape on Douglas,  to encouraging local shopping with the Artisan Market and 2ndSaturday collaborations—the DDD is committed to creating a vibrant neighborhood while also encouraging local commerce and growth.   

 They also have initiated difficult but necessary conversations about our current infrastructure on Douglas, and they continue to dare to ask ‘what if?’ These conversations seek to understand what would make Douglas Avenue more walkable, and lead to more local businesses and residents choosing to locate in this vibrant area. Studies show that young people choose where to live based on the quality of experiences a city offers.  We have to offer better experiences in our city – and a progressive and forward-thinking long-term capital investment will deliver one.

The DDD is also exploring the possibility of creating a Business Improvement District within its project area as well.  City Council appointed a District Planning Committee to explore the concept further. The details – budget, scope of services, value proposition, any assessments – will be developed in the coming months then shared with community stakeholders.  

It has been mistakenly communicated that this proposal would be a tax—it is not.  It’s the possible creation of a funding model where area businesses contribute toward the betterment of the District – just like you see with a homeowner’s association assessment in residential areas, or a Common Area Maintenance charge in retail areas.  If implemented, stakeholders in the area – i.e., businesses paying the assessment – get to decide how the money is spent – not City Hall.  A BID would engage more businesses in decision-making that affects the District.  Self-governance by stakeholders is a fundamental principle in the 1,000+ BIDs around the country.

The DDD is currently a member-based organization that collects voluntary membership dues.  There has been no staff – only a group of doers invested in their community.  But they get things done – and recently did the legwork needed to increase investments and funding into the District that allowed for hiring a full-time Executive Director. The potential moving forward with Renee Duxler as the Executive Director at the helm is truly inspiring.   

James Chung identified a “culture of no” mindset in our city that has held us back way too long. Let’s keep building, trying new things and proving our naysayers wrong.  I support a “culture of yes” and believe in the exciting future of the Douglas Design District.