After five years of inspections, engineering reports, and emergency repairs, the City of Wichita has decided to permanently close the Mid-America All-Indian Museum’s largest parking lot, leaving the museum with only 46 available parking spaces.
And the City of Wichita wants feedback on a proposed plan that would replace a beloved sledding hill next to the museum with a new parking lot to make up for it.
The enclosed 260-stall parking lot, west of the museum across from Seneca, sits atop the city’s emergency drinking water supply: several large, structurally compromised storage tanks where the city stores millions of gallons of treated water. It has been closed since August.
The city says the storage tanks can no longer handle the additional weight of hundreds of vehicles. And they probably shouldn’t have had parking lots above them in the first place, said Alan King, director of public works and utilities.
“They were never designed to have bearing caps, so even the dirt that’s on them, it stretches it a little bit,” King said. “You put vehicles on them and it’s never been a purpose they were designed for.”
At the closed parking lot, King said, the city wants to remove the pavement and dirt from the underground concrete storage tanks, rehabilitate the plugs, and then cover the ground, “so it’s a nice, beautiful green space.”
“It’s a beautiful part of the city, right there by the river,” King said. “So we would like to do something like that, maybe even some interpretive signs or some art or something. I think we have a higher and better use for that property than a parking lot, particularly if it’s no longer going to serve as a parking lot.
King said anything other than green space or light development would likely be a failure over the reservoirs.
“In their current condition, any additional weight loads are off the table,” King said. “We cannot do this in good conscience. If we wanted to put something in it, even if it was a building or something that had a certain weight, we would have to make improvements. . . . But you’re talking tens of millions of dollars to do something like this.
Community members are invited to share their thoughts at a town hall meeting at the Mid-America All-Indian Museum at 650 N. Seneca at 6:00 pm on Tuesday.
Maggie Ballard, a Wichita City Council member who represents the district and sits on the museum’s board of trustees, said she called the meeting to hear from residents before the city, which owns the museum and its land, takes decisions. final decisions on new or old parking for the Museum.
“We’re not doing anything without having some kind of town hall where we give people an opportunity to come hear us and get feedback,” Ballard said. “Maybe someone has a great idea that we haven’t thought of.”
Ballard said he knows removing the hill northwest of the Mid-America All-Indian Museum isn’t ideal. “But the last thing I want to do is not support the museum,” he told her.
“I feel like they’re already being treated like the stepson — when you look at the art museum and Botanica and Exploration Place and Cowtown — they’re being treated like they’re the Keeper of the Plains Visitor Center, and they’re not,” she said.
The Mid-America All-Indian Museum is dedicated to Native American history and culture and includes entertainment spaces, meeting places, and a collection of more than 3,000 artifacts.
“Parking is a problem,” he said. “How are you going to organize a powwow where you encourage 400 or more people to show up when you have, like, 40 parking spaces?
“I’m on that board, and the board is kind of excited about the potential of having a new parking lot because they’re basically operating with one arm tied behind their back because they don’t have that parking lot right now.”