“We’ve got a lot of customers and employees coming in from all over the country, and I wanted to have a neat, interesting property,” Smith says. “I really like old buildings with a lot of character. It’s just got the cool factor.”
In January, Have You Heard? first reported Smith had a contract on the building, which was built in 1901 as a livery stable in conjunction with the adjacent Union Station.
“The neat thing about the building is there’s a sliding door from the ice house next door,” Smith says.
He says blocks of ice and other refrigerated goods would be loaded onto horse-drawn carriages stationed in his building and then be delivered around Wichita.
Smith currently leases space on the east side for his companies.
Alltite sells industrial bolting equipment and services to heavy industrial plants, and Smith’s MobileCal is a mobile calibration lab he developed to service industrial equipment on site.
Smith says he plans to create a loft-style office for his new space.
“It’s going to be open with exposed brick walls and high ceilings,” he says. “It’s going to lend itself to a very cooperative-type business environment where people are going to be able to see each other.”
Picturing the finished project could be a challenge, Smith concedes.
“Right now you kind of have to have a lot of vision to see,” he says.
“It’s the same team that did the Finn Lofts,” Smith says of the loft apartments on Commerce Street.
Construction will begin in the next two or three months, and Alltite and MobileCal should move in about a year.
“It’s a historic renovation,” Smith says.
That will include turn-of-the-century reproduction windows and a return to the brick building’s original color.
Currently, the building is painted a mustard shade and has a somewhat folksy mural on the north side, which won’t be staying.
“No,” Smith says. “I think it’s hideous.”
He’s been working with the Wichita Downtown Development Corp. on the project and likes that his company will be part of downtown Wichita and may help showcase the city.
“It’s going to be a pretty neat facility to operate from,” Smith says.
Though there will be modern amenities on the inside, he says, it’s the historical touches that most appeal to him.
“I just don’t think that you can get any of those things in a new building out east or out west.”