Downtown Improvements Fundraising Almost to $1.8 Million Goal

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW-TV) -- At a press conference Wednesday, members of the Campaign Leadership Team for the Kansas Avenue Redevelopment Project announced $1,638,150 has been raised in private contributions. The goal is to get to $1.8 million.

Prior to Wednesday's announcement, the group had raised $895,000 in funds.

"We promised 1.8 so we wil get that and we'll move forward and go as far beyond that as we possibly can," Vince Frye with Downtown Topeka, Inc. said.

The amount raised will be added to the $4.97 million the Topeka City Council approved for phase two of the South Kansas Avenue project last December.

The money designated by the council will go towards shrinking the street from four lanes to three, infrastructure repair, and wider sidewalks. Private funds will be used for the "bells and whistles," such as street lamps, bronze statues of famous Kansans, pocket parks, a mid-block archway, and limestone medallions for local artists.

"We want downtown to be a source of pride for Topekans and all Kansans," Frye said. "We want our downtown to tell the history of Topeka and our state."

Governor Brownback is on hand along with other local dignitaries. Promising that renovations on the capitol building will wrap-up next year in 2014, he said the Kansas Avenue project will match it perfectly.

"We need to grow, and we can grow," Brownback said. "Good groups are coming into this town to move it on forward, and this is going to be a progressive move by this town."

On the other side of wanting downtown to be more exciting and inviting, the hopes are to grow business too and develop it into a place where business can thrive.

Wendy Wells, President of U.S. Bank, said Wednesday she wants to attract young professionals to the city and keep them here.

"This was the center of the city, the core," Wells said, "this is where things were happening for our parents and our parents' parents. We want it to be the place that things happen for our children and our children's children."

Jeffry Clayton, Garden City native, is a newcomer to Topeka, and is about to begin classes at Washburn University in the fall. He said he likes how downtown Topeka looks, but agrees that some new additions could do it some good to attract more people.

"That would be interesting to see, but I don't know if that's going to be able to pull more people into downtown. It kind of looks like it's an older part of town. I like the way it looks, but I think renovations are needed."

Lupita's Mexican Restaurant has been at 8th and Kansas Avenue for 19 years, and owners say they support anything that promotes making a trip downtown.

"We need a boost down here," co-owner Martin Munoz said." There's a lot of businesses that are not surviving down here. We need to find a way to attract more business and I believe this project will probably be the first step in the right direction."

The portion between 7th and 8th streets will be overhauled first, that is expected to start in 2014.


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