The late Chester I. Lewis, a Hutchinson native who went on to become a civil rights attorney fighting segregation, is the namesake for Hutchinson’s new plaza.
In the first block of East 1st Avenue across from the entrance to the Historic Fox Theatre, Chester I. Lewis Plaza is a mostly paved blank slate. That’s partly intentional and partly because of its newness.
“We have decided not to put any permanent furniture in right now,” said Hutchinson Director of Parks and Facilities Justin Combs. Picnic tables or seating can be brought in for events. The design also will allow for food trucks.
Several spaces on a neighboring wall are blank canvases for future murals. The center mural was chosen before the plaza was named for Lewis and it will be painted in 2020 by Wichita mural painter Josh Tripoli.
A city subcommittee did not seek competitive proposals from muralists but chose Tripoli. The agreed-on price is $1,200.
The subcommittee “liked his work in Wichita and the idea of a vintage postcard feel like he had done there but clearly about Hutchinson,” according to Rebekah Starkey Keasling, the city’s Director of Public Information and Community Engagement.
Combs emphasized with the release of Tripoli’s tentative design that the design has not been finalized. The finished design, including the color scheme, could vary from the proposal released to The News.
Combs said the other murals for the plaza have not been determined, but Darrell Pope, president of the Hutchinson Chapter of the NAACP, said he was aware that one will depict Lewis.
Six trees have been installed in planter boxes. A slightly elevated stage is on the plaza’s east side. Ward Davis Builders, Hutchinson, submitted the low bid of $194,302, to perform the project, and the Hutchinson City Council was told Tuesday that the plaza was finished.