Borland: Gentrification robs Wichita of its cultural identity


Kenzie Borland

After 84 years of baseball, historic Lawrence-Dumont Stadium is set for demolition.

I was young when Joyland closed, but even as a kid I knew that the closing of the beloved amusement park was huge. In the last year especially, we’ve had our fair share of sad goodbyes with beloved Wichita places. So many spots are gone, changed, or no longer accessible.

In just the last year, the people of Wichita have witnessed the closing of Value Center, Mead’s Corner, The Palace movie theater, Starlite Drive-In, Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, and the complete destruction of Natzger Park.

The things that made Wichita special are being bulldozed and replaced by luxury apartments and big food chains — leaving little resources left for lower/middle-income people in the city.

Mead’s Corner was forced to close because of rising rent prices. That leaves almost nowhere left in the downtown area to get an affordable cup of coffee. Value Center, the once-major thrift store downtown and a safe haven for college students looking to get affordable used clothing, was also forced to close because of the rent hikes in recent years.

The Palace and the Starlite Drive-In, which provided cheap movie alternatives to the expensive Warren and AMC, are also no more. The iconic Lawrence-Dumont Stadium is getting bulldozed by the end of the year in exchange for a $29.5 million renovation.

As these beloved establishments vanish, I think it’s important to ask ourselves some questions. Is the growth and prosperity of Wichita worth it when people are getting left behind? Is it worth it when resources are being stripped away from those who are lower or middle-income? Is it worth it when we are losing places with significant history to this city?

I witnessed gentrification in its most extreme form during the time that I lived in San Francisco, California. The city, the one that I fell in love with from the second I stepped foot there, lost its culture and uniqueness in just three years as the tech industry moved into the Bay Area and Silicon Valley.

In my experience, the only people who like the gentrification happening in Wichita are the ones benefiting from it. It’s not worth the “growth” when the city you love is no longer recognizable.