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Plans to improve area of Wichita’s College Hill neighborhood met with opposition

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 8:12 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Plans to improve an area of Wichita’s College Hill neighborhood have ben met with opposition by some who live in the area. Developers of Happiness Plaza, near Douglas and Clifton, want to build a market and expand a parking lot. But to make room, they would have to tear down some historical homes, some more than 100 years old. Happiness Plaza, a corner shopping area that hosts a multitude of businesses, including popular restaurant, The Belmont, sits among the homes and wants to expand.

“We need to utilize some more parking. We want to try alleviate anyone that is being forced to park down the street or anything of that sort,” said Happiness Plaza Partner Tory Demarce. “So, we are trying to find solutions to keeping the traffic and everything closer to our building and also provide the closer parking to the guests that do choose to come here as well.”

Some in the neighborhood aren’t happy about the plans and expressed their opposition in a letter detailing how the project would affect the neighborhood with some older homes being torn down. The letter asks the community to protest the construction.

“It’s a power play,” said College Hill resident Ken Scherban whose been a member of the community for 35 years. “They’re eventually going to take over this whole street, which is what they’re shooting for. And this is like a test bed to see how far they’re going to get.”

College Hill Neighborhood Association President Trish Hileman said she has mixed feelings about the plans for Happiness Plaza.

“I want to support businesses who are doing great things, and strong businesses mean a strong neighborhood,” she said.

Developers behind the planned improvements for Happiness Plaza are hopeful the community will keep an open mind about the project.

“I’m hoping that they give us an opportunity to show what we want to do because it’s not just a market, it’s not just a parking lot, it’s not just a restaurant, it’s not just an old center,” Demarce said. “To us, it means a lot more than that and we put a lot of time and energy into it and a lot of care.”

Those with concerns about the project can express them at the Oct. 4 District 1 Advisory Board meeting or the Oct. 7 planning commission meeting.

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