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Spokesperson for lofty Century II proposal resigns

Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 10:10 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) -

UPDATE: Brian McHughes, Penumbra International, LLC.- Wichita Riverwalk spokesperson says Saturday he is stepping down from his role. He sent an email informing local media. We have reached out to McHughes for further comment.

“It is with a deep sense of confusion and disappointment that I write these lines, but after the June 15th, press conference on behalf of Penumbra International, I found myself as confused as all of you. I expected our senior leadership to answer the questions everyone has been asking about our investment partners and the organization’s specific action items to come in the next weeks ahead, as I and other local members of the group had been promised.

At this point, after reaching out to individuals who I was told were members of this initiative, the answers were not what I expected, and now I have to dig deeper to understand how we got to this point in the process.

I want to make public my apologies as I have performed the role of Spokesperson for Penumbra International, under a great degree of ignorance until now, a role of which, I have formally resigned and stepped down as today, June 19, 2021; I also extend my apologies to those, who like myself, enthusiastically embraced the concepts presented by the group. Afterall, I believe and love Wichita!

At this moment and going forward I will not be representing Penumbra International LLC. in any form. I personally hope to obtain the answers we all have been looking for in the last year,” said McHughes.

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More than a year later, there are still more questions than answers surrounding a $1.5 billion plan proposed by a group of private investors to repurpose Century II and the Riverfront area. That group presented its plan to the public once again Tuesday night.

The main question asked by the public Tuesday night was who would be paying for the $1.5 billion plan? The group still says that information won’t be provided until the plan is approved. That plan to repurpose Century II includes adding an international market, an air and space museum, an aquarium, a rollercoaster, a 40-story convention hotel and more.

“We are not being paid to do this, but I think Wichita has got a great future and we put our money where our mouth is,” Penumbra International LLC spokesperson Brian McHughes said. “How many other people will spend that money and invest and get a return in a city?”

The group promises that it won’t ask for taxpayer dollars, but the question of where the money is coming from remains unknown. For some Wichitans, that’s cause for concern.

f”I could say today that I have $1.5 billion to invest in a brand new downtown, but there has to be some proof of that fact before anyone would be willing to back me in any meaningful way,” said Wichita resident Tom Ramsay who attended Tuesday’s meeting.

The group behind the plan, established in Kansas in early 2020, says it talked with both City of Wichita and Sedgwick County officials about the plan. Wichita City Councilmember Brandon Johnson said the answers provided aren’t adequate.

“I asked, ‘who is the investment group,’ ‘what does this look like,’ ‘what are the real requests from the city,’ has there been any conversation with the city manager’s office?’ “And the answer to that was ‘no,’ and I think anyone serious about doing a deal on public property after the attention this got, a commitment to a public vote would’ve done that by now,” Johnson said.

Those heading the Save Century II committee are also skeptical of the group’s plan.

“We can’t take this group serious yet until we know who is behind the money and who has their financial backing,” said Save Century II Chairwoman Celeste Racette. “It’s too vague and too unknown. Once they start giving us those details, then I think we can have a serious discussion, but right now, no.”

Under the proposal, but Century II and the home of the former Wichita Public Library would not be torn down, but rather repurposed. Some Wichitans say that is an idea they like.

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