Nonprofits partner to uncover community-led vision for Wichita's North End – Wichita Business Journal – Wichita Business Journal

Three local nonprofits have partnered in an effort to come up with a new neighborhood catalyst plan they hope will turn Wichita’s North End into a vibrant cultural district.
Empower — formerly called Empower Evergreen — along with the Wichita Community Foundation and the Kansas Health Foundation plan to lead a community listening campaign in the area to come up with ideas to activate the neighborhood, particularly the historic Nomar Theater, the Nomar Plaza and other underutilized properties.
Ariel Rodriguez, Empower’s executive director, says the partnership will continue the work already started by the new nonprofit, which is currently transforming a portion of the Evergreen Branch Library into a neighborhood community center.
“We’ve really been looking at how do we create something that will be a catalyst project, but also being something that attracts Wichitans to come to the area,” Rodriguez said, “and also really focuses on the unique experiences of the culture in the North End.”
The effort is funded with a $150,000 donation from the Knight Foundation Fund at the Wichita Community Foundation, and $50,000 from the Kansas Health Foundation.
“This multi-year, neighborhood-led participatory process is going to be a game-changer for the North End,” said WCF president and CEO Shelly Prichard in an emailed statement. “We are diving deep into this with phases of investments that will advance economic success in the area. As an organization, we’re learning right alongside Empower about what’s important to the residents, and we’re anxious to get started.”
Teresa Miller, KHF president and CEO, says the ultimate goal is to build a community-lead, collective vision for the district.
“At the Kansas Health Foundation, we believe that to advance equity we must support organizations and projects that intentionally engage residents of under-resourced communities to create change,” Miller said in an email. “Community development in this neighborhood will help reduce poverty through educational and workforce programs and build partnerships to address community needs. This work will activate the unrealized potential of this historic neighborhood, reflecting the cultural aspects of the Latino families who live here.”
Along the way, the partners hope to gain answers to a few other key questions, such as what geographic area includes the North End, technically, and what assets does the community think are missing from the area?
“We don’t want to just go and put something in, we also want to embrace the local community,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez says he expects the effort will run into 2022 and even early 2023. More immediately, there will be some placemaking activities in the area, starting with an event Saturday outside the Nomar Theater in which community leaders can help with a paint-by-the-numbers asphalt mural on the theater’s parking lot.
“We want to start with some fun things so people can see, ‘OK, here’s how I can imagine a quality of place in Nomar,’ and get more people to come down there to see this asset. It has potential, and there are great things happening, but how can we amplify that?” he said.
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