Renfro apartments ready to debut

UPDATED — There will be more than art on display downtown for the Oct. 26 Final Friday.

Developers Robert Eyster and Michael Ramsey, in collaboration with Farha Construction, also are introducing their new Renfro apartments, including some gallery space in the first floor hallway of the historic building.

The property was built at 612 E. Douglas in 1908 and once was home to the Renfro hotel. Most recently, it was Victoria Park Apartments.

“It’s a building that needed a lot of love,” Ramsey says.

He applied for the building to be on the National Register of Historic Places and was able to use historic tax credits in renovating it.

“We love being part of giving a building another 100 years of life,” says contractor Ted Farha. “There’s something pretty special about that.

“When it comes to sustainability or green building, really, I don’t think there’s anything greener than taking an existing building and bringing it up to date.”

There are 20 units, including a few live-work units with metal spiral staircases between the work and living spaces. There also are two commercial spaces in the front of the building. Those spaces are still available. Four of the apartments, including one live-work space, are leased.

There are unique touches throughout the building, such as original ceiling tins in some apartments, a garage door in one back unit and glass brick where another garage door once was.

Ramsey says he, Eyster and Farha Construction incorporated a lot of what they learned from renovating the Zelman Lofts building just down the street.

“The things that worked we tried to keep,” he says.

That includes open areas and ambient light.

“People will put up with smaller living space if we give them lots of storage, lots of shared light, lots of open area … and we give them nice kitchens and nice bathrooms.”

They found substantial savings by having Farha build cabinets in each of the units instead of buying them.

There are further savings for renters with high efficiency heating and air and LED lighting.

“We employed all the current technology that’s available to make this building as green as possible without going through . . . all the LEED Certification stuff,” Farha says. “It’s really satisfying to be able to do that. To create great living spaces for people.”

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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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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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You don’t say

“I’ll tell you, both the writer and the photographer who came to town fell in love with Wichita.”

Farha Construction’s Ted Farha on a national story about Wichita (particularly focusing on the Finn Lofts he helped build) in the October issue of Dwell magazine


Developers Robert Eyster and Michael Ramsey have plans for Kelly Donham’s former hole in the ground

UPDATED — Developers Robert Eyster and Michael Ramsey have added another downtown project to their plate.

“We took over the pit,” Ramsey says of the hole in the ground that developer Kelly Donham previously owned.

The property is on Douglas Avenue between Main and Market streets.

“I can’t tell you exactly what we’re going to do right now,” Ramsey says.

He does, though, say that it will be a multiuse building.

“It’s going to be in conjunction with some other things going on . . . on Market Street.

The developers are about to acquire more property on South Market Street.

It’s close to where the hole in the ground is, but it’s not adjacent to it.

Donham still owns the building where the Woolf Brothers department store used to be at Market and Douglas.

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