Monday, February 25, 2013

The Gentrification of Maize Kansas

The town of Maize was a small hamlet located north of Wichita. For many years it was a quiet small town catering to area farmers and some Wichitans who liked to small town atmosphere. Yet today it is overcrowded with urban sprawl and new mega marts that pop up like mushrooms after a storm.
Ten years ago, Maize Road was the main street to get to the town. It had a down-town area that died out and what little business there was left ended up on the two-lane paved Maize Road. Then a few years ago, wealthy land developers moved in and started to build on the eastern side of Maize Road. At first they built large houses for upper middle class people.
Several years ago Wichita went on a growing spree and by the year 2000, the City of Maize and the City of Wichita were competing for land. Now Wichita boarders Maize. Today Maize is really just a “burb” of Wichita. It is hard to tell where Wichita ends and Maize begins as Maize has lost all of its small town charm.
Developers have focused on building Expensive two-story “Mcmansions” or houses that all look like a cookie cutter mold and are painted similar colors. They look almost identical.
There are some small working class homes build on far out on the eastern edge, right next to the highways, where there is a lot of noise and the dangers of children walking into traffic. They have link fences around the back yards but that doesn’t always stop little kids.
It doesn’t take long to see that the town has been “gentrified” or built up for the benefit of the wealthy. This trend is going on through out this country in states where growth is not well regulated. Recently the city decided to widen the main street to four lanes instead of two. Wichita had already widened their part of the road to four lanes and that created a bottle neck of traffic for Maize. But when Maize started their work on their part of that road they also decided to move all the telephone poles and the street lights across the street. They only reasonable explanation for this move is that the homes on the west side of the street are the small lower-income homes. The other side, that used to have the lights and polls, has newer homes and they are two story expensive homes for upper-middle class people.
Another move by the city is to change the methods of sending out water bills. The city recently sent out a letter explaining that city is doing away with water bill extensions. The extensions were given for people who have trouble paying their bills on time.
“We try to work with people if there is a layoff or serious financial problems,” said Sue Villarreal, Maize City Treasurer. “We just had too many people making a partial payment on-line or just constantly getting behind on their water bills.”
There may be some people who just took advantage of the system, but on the other hand it seems as if the city council decided to show less tolerance of those with smaller incomes.
There is no doubt that Maize, as with Wichita, will continue to grow. The City of Maize put this statement on the city web site;
“It is projected that, based on the anticipated population growth, Maize should expect between 230,000 to 250,000 square feet of commercial development timeframe. Similarly, based on the anticipated population growth, 80,000 to 90,000 square feet of industrial development should be planned for Maize. The current land use plan for maize provides sufficient land area to accommodate anticipated future commercial and industrial development.”
The real problem here is for fair growth for those lower income people who have lived in the town a long time. Maize is not unique to this gentrification problem. It is state-wide problem as well as for other towns in other US states. Since I live in Maize I have been able to observe the town’s gentrification first hand.


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