BY CARRIE RENGERS
Even before his term as president of the Old Town Association was up late last year, Jason Van Sickle was already thinking bigger.
“I just really saw a need for a larger organization to bring together all of downtown,” he says.
So Van Sickle has started Wichita DNA, which stands for Wichita Downtown Neighborhood Association.
He says there are lots of great groups to bring together businesses and real estate interests in the area, “but there’s no group just to bring people together.”
So he invited people from Old Town, Delano, the Commerce Arts District and the Douglas Design District to participate.
“They’re kind of the four corners of downtown,” Van Sickle says.
“I wasn’t sure what the response would be,” he says.
In a word, it was overwhelming.
So overwhelming, in fact, Van Sickle is having a second meeting today and – as much as he’d like to invite more downtowners to come – he can’t have anyone else at this one because the room holds only 50.
“Really, it’s been amazing,” he says.
There are individuals, organizations and businesses that immediately showed interest.
Van Sickle says the idea is to “figure out how to continue to make downtown a great place to live and work.”
There won’t be dues or memberships or fundraising, he says. The approach is an informal collection of people who “want to promote a safe, vibrant, civically engaged neighborhood.”
“It’s kind of a long-overdue thing.”
Van Sickle says downtown has the densest population of retail, entertainment and restaurants and the densest group of nonprofit social service organizations.
Also, he says downtown is the fastest-growing residential neighborhood with 500 new housing units slated to come on the market in the next year.
“That is an incredibly unique neighborhood.”
Old Town alone is a “melting pot of demographics,” he says.
“There’s just a lot of unique issues.”
Van Sickle says www.wichitadna.com will be ready by the end of February and will have a list of scheduled meetings.
Now, he says, he just needs to find a bigger room.