In the 1940’s and early 1950’s the 800 and 900 blocks of North Kansas Ave-known then as North Topeka was the place to be seen. It was in this downtown district that folks got their groceries, saw a matinee movie, went to the hardware store, got their car fix and so on. Farmers would set aside special days to head to town and visit North Topeka. In 1951 a historic flood of the Kansas River ravished the North Topeka downtown and businesses simply could not recover. After the Kansas Ave. bridge, which connected North Kansas Ave. to South Kansas Ave. collapsed many of the businesses that remained felt the impact. The city relocated and rebuilt the bridge one block to the East causing the final downfall of what was a buzzing dwntown district.
From the 1970’s to 2000’s the only businesses that wanted to be located in this historic district where bars and adult clubs. Crime rates rose, the neighborhood turned rough and Topekan’s no longer wanted to visit the area. Around 2010 Topekan’s were surveyed and the top request was “an arts district”. Many of the Historic North Topeka buildings were purchased by investors and slowly the rough and rowdiness of area began to phase out. Leaders of Heartland Visioning were looking for a destination for an Arts District and it was suggested that the Historic North Topeka Downtown be its location. After much revitalization by building owners themselves, The NOTO (a nickname for the area) Arts District came to exist. In 2011, three businesses opened their door. In 2012, The NOTO Arts District grew by twelve and ever since it has continued to grow! The 800 & 900 Blocks of North Kansas Ave. now house Art Galleries, Antique shops and restaurants; all locally owned and operated!
The arts scene is alive and well in The NOTO Arts District with 3,000+ people visiting every month for the Artsconnect First Friday Artwalk. Business has been so successful for those in The NOTO Arts District that many businesses now are open Thursday-Saturday and year round. NOTO is now, once again the place to be seen and is the colorful heartbeat of North Topeka with murals, artists, antiques and so much more!