Groundbreaking: Downtown Topeka Getting A Face Lift

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW)- "Ready? 1,2,3!" project leaders yell as they slam golden painted sledge hammers to the cement in front of the Capitol Federal building.

Five years in the making-a facelift for downtown Topeka is officially underway!

Area leaders picked up sledgehammers Monday morning to kick off the Kansas Avenue revitalization project.

Even though is was very rainy and windy during this ground-breaking ceremony, it didn't drown out the excitement for seeing this renovation project become a reality.

"This is such a momentous day for Topeka! We stand here today to begin bringing that vision a reality. This is a Renaissance for our city," said Topeka Mayor Larry Wolgast.

Mayor Larry Wolgast says the construction project has been a long time coming--the idea came about 5 years ago in October 2009.

The city council approved nearly 5.8 million dollars for infrastructure work. Public works director Doug Whitacre says the existing four lanes will be reduced to three.

Crews will begin traffic control on May 27th and work on northbound lanes, they'll work on southbound lanes next year.

"Hopefully, it enhances and spruces up downtown, street enhancements, storm water upgrades, sidewalk replacement, parking replacement, curb and gutter replacement and also new street lighting," says Whitacre.

In addition, Downtown Topeka Inc. CEO Vince Frye says private contributions nearing two and a half million dollars will fund extras like pocket parks, the first of which should be done by the end of the year.

"This is about quality of life and people want a revitalized downtown a place people can come at night and on the weekends and have fun," says Frye.

"Topeka downtown won't be what it once was," says Wolgast.

Frye also told 13 News that as plans for the project developed, a dozen buildings on Kansas Avenue were sold. He said many of the buyers are creating loft apartments and other businesses.