Central Community Church plans a multi-million-dollar development on its west Wichita campus on Maple, just west of the Big Ditch.
The development is planned to include about 280 homes and apartments, a 16,500-square-foot event center, an outdoor amphiteater, a Christian private school, a chapel, an athletic field and a youth center/fitness center.
The Eagle sat down Monday with the church’s pastor, the Rev. Bob Beckler, to talk about the project and answer questions that have arisen since the church filed its plans with City Hall.
What’s the purpose of all this development?
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There are several answers to that. One part is to create a “birth to death” multi-use development where people of varying age groups will be able to interact in a village atmosphere. Another goal is to get the church more involved in the neighboring community. A third purpose is to attract more people from the general public to activities at the church, where they will be exposed to its religious mission.
Is it going to be a closed compound for church members?
No. Except for invitation-only events such as weddings, activities in the complex will generally be open to the public. The complex is being built without a wall or fence around it so that neighbors will feel welcome to stroll through on the streets and pedestrian paths. Many of the activities will be geared specifically to attract visitors from outside the church community. “The question we kind of asked that started all of this is what do we have to do to get the community of Wichita to come across our curbs?” Beckler said.
Who will live there?
The housing at the site will be a mix of single, duplex and quad-plex patio homes, along with apartments. Beckler said the plan is to limit occupancy to people over the age of 55. Church membership will not be a requirement to live in the housing units at the complex, he said.
The plans say the development will have a nightclub. At a church?
The complex will have a building designated in city zoning maps as an event center/nightclub. But that’s more a quirk in the city planning code than an actual description. It won’t be a typical nightclub with a bar and music like you’d find in Old Town. The building in question will be designed to resemble a barn and used for wedding receptions, community fund-raisers, parties and small shows. It’s being designed to work in conjunction with the chapel and an outdoor wedding garden, so couples will be able to have a complete wedding experience on the grounds. Beckler and the Rev. Ray Cotton, who is consulting on the development, said they objected to having to use the term “nightclub,” in their application, but it’s the zoning classification the city requires for venues that hold nighttime events.
Will there be alcohol at the event center?
Possibly. But on a limited basis. The church’s application would allow for selling and serving alcoholic beverages at the event center. But Beckler said the church has not yet decided whether that will actually be allowed. In any case, alcohol sales won’t be an ongoing feature. The only times it would be considered would be if the facility was rented for a non-church use such as a catered dinner or wedding reception, Beckler said.
Will the complex be tax-exempt?
Mostly, no. Churches can claim a tax exemption on property that is used directly for religious purposes, such as a chapel. But that exemption does not apply to church-owned property used for secular purposes, such as housing or public entertainment. Beckler said the church will pay property taxes on the complex and “very little of it will be tax-exempt.”
How big will the outdoor amphitheater be?
The outdoor amphitheater is expected to seat between 500 and 700 people.
Couldn’t that be kind of noisy for the neighbors?
Beckler said the church has a good relationship with its neighbors to the west in the Willo-Esque area and on the south side of Maple and doesn’t want jeopardize that. He said the events at the amphitheater will be kept to small concerts, outdoor teaching events “or maybe showing a Disney movie or something like that.” Amplification will be limited to keep the sound reasonably confined to the amphitheater. Although the city would allow events to run until midnight, the church’s plan is to wrap up no later than 10 p.m.
Two churches, Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church and Greater Faith Christian Church, are working together to create a cookbook. Church members are compiling family recipes to share across church lines and build camaraderie. (Video by Fernando Salaza