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City leaders discuss new parking options for the museum

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A large downtown parking lot is permanently closed due to underground water tanks showing stress cracks.

City leaders say that as a precaution, one of the parking lots at the Mid-America All-Indian Museum was partially closed in August 2022 and completely closed as of this month. The decision has left the museum with 400 fewer parking spaces and fewer options for parking in the future.

That’s why city leaders held a meeting at the museum Tuesday night to discuss possible changes to the museum’s now-extended parking lot.

“I think more than anything, it’s going to have to be a green space,” said city engineer Gary Janzen. “We know there’s not going to be parking lots. We know we can’t add anything to the weight of those. So we can’t put more dirt over there. We can’t build a hill. We can’t do anything like that.”

Some potential options for an upgraded parking lot include adding 160 spaces to the museum’s smaller lot and making the entrances more accessible for elderly and disabled patrons.

“This is vital to the veterans community,” said resident Howard Hutchison Jr..

Hutchison says the museum’s former largest lot closed a day before last year’s Veteran Awareness Expo. He says another idea for a shuttle to the Arts District in the short term isn’t good.

“We had to rush to get with the City and do the shuttle thing, and it was a disaster,” Hutchison said. “I think we had 1,000 people, but normally we would have had a couple thousand, so the shuttle isn’t a starting point for me.”

As for why the city can’t just build new water storage tanks elsewhere, city leaders say it’s cheaper to keep them where they are.

“We’ve estimated over $300 million to move the tanks because we would also have to move the pumping station,” Janzen said.

City leaders say they will continue to develop cost estimates as they work to secure funding for the project.

“We’ll take some of this information back to the staff, talk to them and see if we can come up with any alternatives,” said Maggie Ballard, District 6 city councilor.

A city spokesman says there are no start dates for any of the ideas discussed Tuesday. City engineers say they expect to have a recommendation ready within the next few months.

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