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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Bite Me BBQ applies for permit to have live music

WICHITA — Coleman Lockett has applied for a conditional use permit for his Bite Me BBQ, which recently moved to 130 N. St. Francis just north of the revamped Zelman Lofts.

He and his wife, Becky, and daughter, Mercedes, hope to offer live music in keeping with their “BBQ, booze and some blues” motto.

Anytime there’s a combination of alcohol and live entertainment, that qualifies a business as a “nightclub,” according to the city. Someone with the city pointed out that Bite Me is within 200 feet of a church, and that’s why the Locketts need the permit.

“So we’re jumping through the hoops now with the city,” Coleman Lockett says.

Rivercrest Free Methodist Community Church is at 136 N. Emporia.

Lockett hopes to be approved by July 5. He then plans a grand opening July 14 with music by Rain.

Lunches have been going well so far, he says, but the dinner crowds are thinner.

“You know, people who work downtown, they’re not going to go home east and west and then come back downtown to eat,” Lockett says.

He says he needs to let people living in downtown know Bite Me is there. He thinks the bands will help with that once they’re approved.

“We shouldn’t have any problem.”



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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Mr. Diggs Dwelling & Co. to open at First Street and St. Francis to sell furniture, decor

UPDATED — St. Francis in Old Town between Douglas and Second Street continues to develop.

The newest addition will be Mr. Diggs Dwelling & Co., a shop that will open later this month on the northeast corner of First and St. Francis.

That’s halfway between the newly renovated Zelman Lofts at Douglas and St. Francis and the new urban park going in at Second and St. Francis.

“When you go shopping it should be fun,” says Annette Shankle, who is opening the shop.

“There should be laughter. There should be excitement that you’ve bought (a) piece.”

Shankle, with help from her sister, Linda Fisher, plans to sell furniture, home decor, art and lamps in 5,500 square feet of what Shankle calls “warehouse-esque” space across from Tracy’s Automotive.

“It’s all about unique pieces,” she says. “We don’t want to be the same as everything else in town.”

She wants her customers to buy items that cause others to say, “Wow, where did you get that?”

Shankle’s merchandise will be old and new.

“We all want to mix new and old in our homes. That’s kind of the new way of decorating.”

Mr. Diggs will be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday – but only during the third week of every month.

The grand opening will be March 22 through 24.

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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.”

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.