Jeff and Susie Longwell mindful of appearances while adding new Ad Astra Print Resources division

WICHITA — Jeff and Susie Longwell have started a new division of their Ad Astra Print Resources, but it wasn’t without a lot of discussion first.

That’s because the new division is creating construction documents – what used to be known as blueprints – for engineers, architects and construction companies.

Those are the same business people who often appear before Jeff Longwell on the Wichita City Council.

“We just want to be very clear what the position is,” Jeff Longwell says.

He  says they currently don’t do work with the city and plan the same policy with the new division.

“We won’t bid on any city work – period.”

He adds, “All my customers require me to be competitive. That’s just the nature of the printing business.”

Still, the Longwells are concerned about appearances.

“The reality is we’re in the printing business,” Jeff Longwell says. “It’s nothing new.”

In fact, he’s been in the business since 1984 and owned Ad Astra for a few years.

“Here’s the thing, I guess, that people need to understand,” Longwell says. “We are a part-time council that gets paid part-time wages.”

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State gives city of Wichita notice that nine agencies and more than 700 employees are leaving the Finney State Office Building

WICHITA — The state of Kansas has notified the city of Wichita that its nine agencies that occupy the Finney State Office Building downtown won’t be renewing their leases after 20 years in the city-owned building.

“It raises a red flag,” says Rep. Jim Ward (D-Wichita). “I have a concern there is a history of the governor rewarding financial contributors with state contracts. I know he has contributors in Wichita that own (buildings) that fall into that category. … I don’t want that to be the reason we’re moving.”

Sherriene Jones-Sontag, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office, says Ward’s fears are unfounded.

“For Representative Ward to say that, what he said was inaccurate,” she says.

There are more than 700 state employees in the building, more than 550 of whom are with the state Department for Children and Families, which formerly was known as SRS. The other eight agencies are the Department for Aging and Disability Services, the Department of Revenue, the Kansas Human Rights Commission, the Department of Health and Environment, the Department of Administration, the Kansas Corporation Commission, the Office of the State Bank Commissioner and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

“We consulted with our agency tenants,” says Chuck Knapp, a spokesman with the Department of Administration. “After visiting with those agencies, we just determined it would be in the best interest of those agencies and their clients to seek space elsewhere.”

Knapp says he can’t be more specific and that each agency will have to answer for itself.

A spokeswoman for the largest tenant couldn’t be reached for comment. A spokesman for another agency referred questions to Knapp.

“I would like them to be able to articulate why this is a good idea, and I haven’t heard any of that,” Ward says.

He says his other major concern is a move from the building will hurt the clients who use it.

Ward was a Wichita City Council member in 1991 when the city was investigating ways to stimulate economic development downtown and proposed a plan to help the state reduce expenses by consolidating numerous offices into the vacant building at 230 E. William, which previously was home to Macy’s. The following year, he was in the state Senate “where we in fact accepted the city’s offer to do that.”

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You don’t say

“I’m the mayor of all vices. If you have a vice, call me.”

Wichita City Council member Pete Meitzner on becoming vice mayor.

You don’t say

Wichita State can’t get football because if we did, KU would want football, too.”

City Council member Pete Meitzner teasingly misquoting WSU President John Bardo at Rotary Monday

You don’t say

“I am not that guy. And I don’t have his money. But I’m still alive, so I think I have the more advantageous position.”

– District 1 City Council candidate Dave Thomas, who on Friday told the Wichita Pachyderm Club that he’s not the late Dave Thomas who founded Wendy’s

You don’t say

“I was praying for a snow day, and the manager outprayed me.”

– Mayor Carl Brewer on the Wichita City Council having to meet Feb. 26

Islamic Society of Wichita rezones about five acres near mosque for development

UPDATED — The Islamic Society of Wichita has rezoned about five acres of land near its mosque at K-96 and Woodlawn.

The society sought general office zoning in preparation for development that could include an apartment complex, an office complex, a medical clinic and a financial institution.

“It’s not about making money,” says Muhammad Aamir Usmani, director of the society’s board of development. “It’s about supporting our existing services.”

Usmani, who manages the IT help desk at Wichita State University, says the society first started building on the almost 9-acre property in 2000.

“Initially, we had a gym,” he says.

It served as a multipurpose building. Then, the group added a mosque and a school followed by another building.

“Everything is attached to each other right now,” Usmani says.

The buildings look separate, though.

The latest building is a new school for pre-K through eighth grade. Fundraising is under way for a high school to be built on the second floor.

“Our goal is to start ninth (grade) in August,” Usmani says.

He says while there are tuition fees, the society still needs to raise money for education and outreach programs to the community.

“We need to keep doing that and possibly expand it.  . . .  There are a lot of programs that are supported by the community.”

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You don’t say

“I’m told that I’m now officially part of the problem.”

Pete Meitzner, who has been on the Wichita City Council for a year and a half

Mike’s Wine Dive owners to open the Hill Bar and Grill in the former Barrier’s space

Brothers Brent (left) and Brad Steven in front of the former Barrier’s building at Douglas and Oliver, which they’re going to transform into the Hill Bar and Grill.

WICHITA — As some residents of Crown Heights are organizing a group to protest a bar and grill going in the former Barrier’s space at Douglas and Oliver, the restaurateurs hoping to open it are ready to share details.

Mike’s Wine Dive owners Brent and Brad Steven plan to open the Hill Bar and Grill — named for the hill in College Hill — in 5,100 square feet of the building in March.

Mike’s is in the center at the northwest corner of the intersection. The Hill will be on the northeast corner.

Though Brad Steven says the Hill will be a great place to catch a game, he says, “It’s not going to be a sports bar.”

“Our focus will be a wide selection of craft beers as well as American food,” he says. “Basically, we’re going to be specializing in beers the way we specialize in wine at Mike’s.”

There will be 25 beers on tap and craft beers from around the world.

Brent Steven describes it as “kind of like an ale house.”

He says the idea is “a place that’s totally different than Mike’s.”

Where Mike’s is more fine dining, he says, he and his brother envision the Hill as “more of a hangout spot.”

“It will appeal to a wider audience than Mike’s does.”

There will be seating for about 150 customers.

There will be an outside patio facing Douglas that is within the front of the building and will serve as an area for smoking. There will be another patio that wraps around the east side of the building.

There will be another 2,400 square feet left in the building for another business.

The Hill’s hours aren’t set yet, but the Stevens are thinking 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. most days and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. on the weekends.

The hours are a key issue for some residents.

“You can go on the news and see all the time what happens in Old Town at 2 a.m.,” says Melinda Foley, who is president of the Crown Heights Neighborhood Association.

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Angelo’s won’t open in former Barrier’s space, but another restaurant working on it

UPDATED — Angelo’s won’t be opening in the former Barrier’s space at Douglas and Oliver after all, but another restaurant will pending final city approval on increased parking.

“I never was positive that we were opening there,” says Gina Fasciano-Hogan. “It was actually way premature that that was mentioned at all.”

Fasciano-Hogan had been speaking with someone who had hoped to buy the building but didn’t succeed.

“That’s how premature it was.”

She still wants to reopen her family’s popular restaurant, though.

“We still want to, yes, and would like to stay in the College Hill area,” Fasciano-Hogan says. “I’m still in the planning stages.”

She says she’s working on a business plan and should be ready to do something in about six months.

“Hopefully when the time comes, something will be available in that area.”

Another group wants part of the former Barrier’s space for a bar and restaurant. Neither the group nor its representatives are sharing details about who the restaurateurs are or what they’re planning.

According to a staff report for the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, the real estate agents for the new owners of the building — who closed on Thursdayapplied for a conditional use permit to tear down a duplex near the property for parking.

They also have plans to tear down a building behind the former Barrier’s building but don’t need permission for that because it’s already zoned for neighborhood retail.

The duplex is behind Citizens Bank of Kansas and is zoned for multifamily residential use.

The planning commission unanimously approved the permit with some modifications. This followed numerous public speakers who voiced concerns over the plan along with support for it.

A couple of speakers said they didn’t think the building, which has been vacant for more than two years, can ever attract another business without more parking.

“This building is an eyesore,” resident Trae Staats said. “Frankly, guys, something’s gotta give.”

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