Robert Eyster purchases the former Protection One building with plans for new residential and commercial development

WICHITA — It’s getting to the point you can’t call Robert Eyster and Michael Ramsey nascent developers any longer.

Eyster has purchased the former Protection One building at the northwest corner of First and Market, which makes the sixth downtown property he’s bought to redevelop in less than a year.

“In the process of looking for buildings that have kind of been neglected or buildings that are too big or too small for people . . . we’ve looked at probably all the buildings downtown,” Ramsey said.

That’s how they found the 7-story, 171,000-square-foot Protection One building, which the former Kansas Gas and Electric Co. built in 1953.

“That building has got some very dynamic bones to it,” Ramsey said. “It just spoke to us.”

He and Eyster are renaming the building the Lux and creating luxury apartments and possible condos along with commercial on the first two floors.

“It sounds like a really exciting development,” said Patrick Ahern of Grubb & Ellis/Martens Commercial Group, who was one of the agents who handled the deal.

Ahern, who specializes in downtown properties, said, “More people living downtown will attract more retail and give more vibrance to downtown and that area in particular.”

He said the sale of that much Class B downtown property “potentially helps the market because it’s less space for other buildings to compete with.”

Ahern and Steve Martens represented Protection One, and Marty Gilchrist and Grant Tidemann of J.P. Weigand & Sons represented Eyster.

Eyster has already purchased and is redeveloping the former Zelman building, the Board of Trade building, Victoria Park Apartments, the two-story building at 100 S. Market and Kelly Donham’s former property on Douglas between Main and Market.

With the help of Kansas City, Mo., architect El Dorado Inc., which designed the Finn Lofts on Commerce Street, Eyster and Ramsey hope to use a lot of the 1950s architectural elements already in the mid-century modern building. That includes light fixtures, door knobs and railings.

“They have actually cataloged everything they could in the KGE building in the hopes we . . . could repurpose those elements,” Ramsey said.

Farha Construction is the contractor and Builders Inc. is managing the building.

“This is really going to be a unique facility,” said Larry Weber of Builders Inc.

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Alltite and MobileCal owner closes on purchase of one-time livery station downtown

WICHITA — Alltite and MobileCal founder Tom Smith has closed on his deal to buy a 14,000-square-foot building at 141 S. Rock Island near The Wichita Eagle.

“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.

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