Farha Construction moves to former Woolf Brothers building for next Eyster-Ramsey project

WICHITA — It’s customary for contractors to move from job to job, but lately Farha Construction has been moving from office to office, too.

“This is very unusual,” says Ted Farha.

In October, the company moved into the Lux, which is the former Protection One building at First and Market that Farha Construction is helping developers Robert Eyster and Michael Ramsey convert into condos.

“It was good to be in there for a while,” Farha says. “There was a lot of investigative work to do there.”

This week, the company moved into another Eyster-Ramsey property at the former Woolf Brothers department store building at the southwest corner of Douglas and Market. The address used to be 111 S. Market, but they’ve changed it to 135 E. Douglas.

“Everybody knows where Douglas is,” Farha says. “Douglas is just the main artery … in downtown.”

Ramsey says the idea is “to breathe some life into that corner down there. Just having somebody in those buildings is going to help that area.”

Farha Construction is taking two floors of the four-story building.

“We have a lot of work in the neighborhood, and we have a lot more work to plan,” Farha says. “It’s very convenient to be within walking distance of multiple projects. Not that we don’t want to work in the suburbs.”

Ramsey and Eyster are working on plans for a grouping of buildings they want to redevelop near Douglas and Market.

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The Lux offers 3-D tour of future apartments

WICHITA — Downtown developers Robert Eyster and Michael Ramsey are using the Internet and social media Wednesday to debut a sneak peak of what the new Lux apartments will look like.

Renovation is still in the demolition stage at the former Protection One building at First and Market, but Facebook and Twitter users and visitors to the Lux website can see what the condos will look like.

“It’s a 3-D presentation,” says Jeremy Luginbill of Lifeboat Creative. “It’s not a traditional walk-through. It gives you a birds-eye perspective.”

The 7-story, 171,000-square-foot building, which the former Kansas Gas and Electric Co. built in 1953, will have apartments and possible condos along with some commercial.

The initial 3-D presentation will feature a one-bedroom apartment. A two-bedroom apartment and optional floor plan presentations will follow.

“We are trying to generate a sense of space and community and what this is going to be before it’s even done,” Luginbill says. “We’re still on course for first quarter 2013 … for a full opening of the entire building.”

 

Cassandra Bryan Design is first commercial tenant at Zelman Lofts downtown

WICHITA — Zelman Lofts is getting its first commercial tenant to go with the nine residential ones already at the newly renovated building at Douglas and St. Francis.

Cassandra Bryan Design is moving into 1,000 square feet that fronts St. Francis on the northeast corner.

“I absolutely love the central location,” says Cassandra Bryan. “The space was just so perfect. … It has so much character.”

Bryan describes her company, which will be three years old this summer, as a creative boutique that designs logos and business cards and specializes in custom website development.

“She’s pretty gifted,” says Michael Ramsey, who is developing the Zelman building with Robert Eyster. “She’s going to be a great asset to the building.”

Previously, Bryan has been working from her home while the company’s other four employees work from theirs and occasionally pop over to her place.

“There’s only so many people that you can put in your basement before your husband starts complaining about your driveway becoming a parking lot,” Bryan says.

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Developers Robert Eyster and Michael Ramsey rename Victoria Park Apartments the Renfro and buy Newton property

WICHITA — Developers Robert Eyster and Michael Ramsey, in collaboration with Farha Construction, have started demolition work in preparation for restoring the former Victoria Park Apartments.

They’re renaming the 1908 building the Renfro after a hotel that used to be there. A faded “Renfro Hotel” is still visible on the east side of the building at 612 E. Douglas.

“I just said, ‘How about the Renfro? That’s kind of cool,’” Ted Farha says of renaming the building.

They’re planning 20 apartments – including five two-story spaces that will double as living and office space – and two retail or office spaces along Douglas.

Ramsey says the project will be a historic renovation.

“We’re going to get it on the national historic register,” he says. “It ensures the longevity of the building. It also opens up the opportunity to use … national tax credits if we choose to use them.”

Farha expects renovation to be complete in five or six months.

Eyster and Ramsey have purchased another historic property in Newton.

“We’re converting a medical building into some apartments there as well,” Farha says.

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Dragon Estate investors buy floors in Sutton Place and Broadway Plaza and plan more purchases downtown

WICHITA — What started as a real estate search for a law office has led Abdul Arif to become a new investor in downtown along with several of his friends and business associates.

The members of the group, who operate under the name Dragon Estate, are Asian immigrants.

“This is our home,” Arif says of how they now view Wichita. “This is where we believe in.”

The other investors are Mui Nguyen, who owns Roof Mechanics; Vinh Le, a Boeing engineer; and Tariq Azmi, a systems engineer with CGF Industries.

“This group of guys (is) who I normally hang out with,” Arif says. “They’re always looking to do something.”

Boeing has told Le he has to move to Seattle. He doesn’t want to, though, so that’s part of the group’s motivation.

“They’re looking for investments and things to keep him here,” Arif says.

So far, they’re investing in downtown one floor at a time.

“Someone told us there’s a good deal at Sutton Place,” Arif says of the building at Market and William.

Real Development owns several floors there. Two floors that others own are in foreclosure.

So far, Arif and his associates have purchased the first floor of Sutton Place.

Arif says he’s in negotiations to buy the foreclosed floors as well.

Once the group has more floors, its plan is to develop residential condos there.

That’s also where Arif will move his Arif & Haeri law office.

Arif says the first floor of Sutton Place will remain office space. He’s also in negotiations for a new restaurant to move into the former Daily Grind space on that floor.

“I’m supposed to sign a lease fairly quickly.”

All About Business, a marketing and consulting firm, also is moving its office there.

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Zelman Lofts fully leased on residential side; commercial leasing is next

WICHITA — The nine residential spaces at Zelman Lofts are now completely leased.

“It’s some proof in the pudding that we’re hard workers,” says Michael Ramsey, who is redeveloping the building with Robert Eyster.

Now, they’re moving on to leasing 4,800 square feet of retail or restaurant space that fronts Douglas and another 1,000 square feet of office space that fronts St. Francis.

“The group is going to be particular about who goes in there because it’s very special space,” says Leisa Lowry of J.P. Weigand & Sons, who handles Ramsey and Eyster’s real estate deals.

The building, which was Sam Zelman’s namesake clothing store for decades, is across from Intrust Bank Arena and between an existing city park and another one being built just up St. Francis.

“It’s a tremendous corner,” Ramsey says.

Lowry says the response so far has been great, too.

She says interest has mostly been from restaurateurs, and it looks like that’s what will go in the space.

“We’ve had a lot of excellent activity on it.”

Robert Eyster buys Stewart’s Jewelry building at 415 E. Douglas

WICHITA — Developer Robert Eyster has purchased another downtown property, but he and business partner Michael Ramsey don’t have big redevelopment plans for this one.

Eyster purchased the Stewart’s Jewelry building at 415 E. Douglas.

“We bought that building because it was the … remaining property that was in the Esther Moses portfolio,” Ramsey says.

Eyster already purchased the late Esther and Herbert Moses‘ former Zelman’s clothing store space at Douglas and St. Francis, which he and Ramsey redeveloped for residential and commercial use.

David Stewart’s jewelry store will remain where it is.

“I’ve been here 31 years,” Stewart says.

At one time, he’d hoped to buy the building.

“In their family, pretty much once you buy property, it stays in the family,” he says of how the Moses family operated.

The couple had planned for their son, David Moses, to use the 415 E. Douglas property for his law practice when he got out of school.

Instead, Moses, now with Case, Moses, Zimmerman & Martin, went to work for Vern Miller in the district attorney’s office.

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Zelman Lofts available to tour Saturday

WICHITA — Developers Robert Eyster and Michael Ramsey are offering a sneak peek at their new Zelman Lofts on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The two have been renovating Sam Zelman’s former namesake men’s clothing store, which was in business at Douglas and St. Francis from the 1920s to 2006.

Two of the lofts will be available to tour. They’ll be outfitted with furniture, though they don’t yet have appliances.

Other lofts in the building will be available to see as well, though they’re unfinished.

There will be studios and one-bedroom lofts in the building.

The open house will include refreshments and a prize giveaway.

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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Old Town Architectural Salvage owners buy adjacent space, plan eventual new business

WICHITA — Upgrades coming to Douglas and St. Francis are inspiring Grant and Janet Rine to do some remodeling just up the street near their Old Town Architectural Salvage shop, at 126 N. St. Francis.

The city is reconfiguring that corridor and adding landscaping, and developers Robert Eyster and Michael Ramsey are also working to transform the Zelman building on the northeast corner into apartments, retail and restaurant space.

“That is an inspiration for us to clean that space up and do something productive,” Janet Rine says of the lot where they keep some of what they salvage.

The Rines purchased the approximately 10,000-square-foot building between their shop and the lot where they keep stone and other large pieces.

“It will, eventually over the next couple of years or so, become something else,” Rine says. “We are entertaining all kinds of ideas.”

She says her Caffe Moderne partner, Melad Stephan — who is never short on new business ideas — has said, “Gosh, wouldn’t it be great to put a great bar down there?”

She wouldn’t mind something along those lines.

“Melad would love to have, like, a Cajun bar,” she says. “Me, I’d rather have a speakeasy.”

It’s an idea she previously entertained for the salvage space.

For now, the Rines are using their new space for storage.

“It’s massively filled.”

Much like the lot, which Rine says is “driving me nuts.”

“I’d like to put temporary walls up . . . just to make it more decorative,” she says.

“We’re eventually going to empty that lot, and it will become a parking lot.”

In the meantime, she says, she’ll have to put up with it.

“It’s just my little pet peeve.”