Created By: Jessica Raburn
Many events are held in Naftzger Park since its redesign was completed in March 2020. At a glance its open space, 3-dimensional sign, and businesses ringing it seems like a logical and natural choice for the space - uncontroversial. However, the history of the park is anything but. The park was funded as a bequest to the city in the mid-1970s by the Naftzger family who were prominent business people in Wichita at the time. The Wichita city website describes the original project as "an urban renewal project. Its original .88 acres was envisioned as a charming, Victorian-style piece of green space that would serve as a downtown draw for middle-class residents and visitors." You should note the specificed class status of "middle-class residents and visitors". The original intent, quite publically stated at the time, was to push out the low-income people who resided in Old Town. One of your previous stops talked about Moody's Skidrow Beanery, one of the undesirable elements whom the middle and upper class desired to push out. The park never met its intended purpose as the space quickly became a home for the homeless. Volunteers, non-profits, and churches offered services such as meals, clothing, and other resources to the homeless, often to the dismay of the city. The city even attempted to fine those who offered these services until churches pushed back, openly defying the city by speaking out and continuing their work. Unlike the 1970s the desire to remove the homeless from the location in the name of "urban renewel" was underplayed by the city the second time around. However, the homeless population had more vocal advocates in the city this time. Some conversation was had about the impact on this population but the redesign moved forward despite concerns. Furthermore, the businesses you see are a controversy themselves. The city struck a deal allowing businesses to operate outdoor seating on city property in exchange for the businesses paying a part of the upkeep for the park. Please take the time to reflect upon these topics. What does this history mean to you? Was it the right choice for the city to redesign a space twice in an attempt to push out what is seen by some as an "undesirable" population? Urban renewal, gentrification good or bad? Where is the line between public and business and how hard should that line be delineated? You aren't being asked to come to a foregone conclusion but to find the answer for you.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Honors Takes Old Town ICT