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Some in College Hill pushing back against planned parking lot

Happiness Plaza in Wichita's College Hill neighborhood
Happiness Plaza in Wichita's College Hill neighborhood(KWCH)
Published: Nov. 5, 2021 at 8:45 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Some residents in Wichita’s College Hill neighborhood are pushing back against a business’s plans that involve clearing space for more parking. 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 in September. “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.”

The Wichita City Council at its next meeting Tuesday, Nov. 9, will consider a rezoning request for the developers. While the planning commission signed off on the request, the district advisory board and College Hill Neighborhood Association disprove of the developer’s plans. Eyewitness News learned some neighbors plan to meet Saturday morning with Wichita Vice Mayor Brandon Johnson to share their concerns.

In September, neighbors expressed their opposition in a letter detailing how the project would affect the neighborhood with some older homes being torn down. The letter asked 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.”

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.”

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