You don’t say

“I call it my hobby that’s gotten way out of hand.”

Coleman Lockett of Bite Me BBQ, who is starting construction on his new restaurant space at 130 N. St. Francis between the revamped Zelman building and the future park at Second and St. Francis

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.”

Robert Eyster hits the trifecta with his acquisition of 100 S. Market

WICHITA — Developer Robert Eyster has purchased another downtown building.

Michael Ramsey, who is working with Eyster on several downtown projects, says Eyster has acquired the more than 20,000-square-foot, two-story building at 100 S. Market.

“It’s not a very exciting building — yet,” Ramsey says.

This follows Eyster’s purchase of the Board of Trade building at 120 S. Market earlier this summer along with Kelly Donham’s former property on Douglas Avenue between Main and Market streets that became known for a giant hole in the ground.

They’re also renovating and repurposing the Zelman building and the Victoria Park Apartments downtown.

Ramsey says the building at 100 S. Market is “an integral part of the trifecta of the old Donham property and the Board of Trade.”

“Now that we’ve secured all three of the key players in the plan, we can go forth with what the next step is.”

Except they’re not revealing that next step yet.

Ramsey says he’ll share news in a month or so.

Leisa Lowry with J.P. Weigand & Sons and Marlin Penner with NAI John T. Arnold Associates handled the deal for 100 S. Market.

“It holds enormous promise,” Ramsey says.

Robert Eyster purchases the Board of Trade building and plans another renovation

WICHITA — The Board of Trade building at 120 S. Market is the latest acquisition for nascent downtown developer Robert Eyster.

“He’s planning on doing a complete remodel with it,” says Michael Ramsey, who is working with Eyster on several downtown projects.

They’re renovating and repurposing the Zelman building and the Victoria Park Apartments. They’ve also recently acquired property along Douglas Avenue between Main and Market streets where developer Kelly Donham previously had plans.

The Board of Trade renovation will be in conjunction with plans Eyster and Ramsey have for the Douglas property.

Ramsey won’t share all the details yet, but he says, “It’s following the Goody Clancy plan of changes they feel should be happening downtown.”

Part of Ramsey’s hesitation to talk just yet is due to potential city involvement.

“We’re really trying to work with the city through the project.”

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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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Zelman building developers to also transform nearby Victoria Park Apartments

WICHITA — It looks like developers Robert Eyster and Michael Ramsey are working on another project just down from where they’re transforming the Zelman building at Douglas and St. Francis.

They’re not talking just yet, but the two are planning to remodel the Victoria Park Apartments, which are now low-income housing, at 612 E. Douglas.

Eyster and Ramsey plan studio and one-bedroom apartments for the 18,000-square-foot building’s second and third floors.

They’re apparently contemplating event space for the first floor.

Eyster and Ramsey have already begun work on the former Zelman building, where they plan apartments, offices and a restaurant.

Look for more information on the Victoria Park Apartments soon.

Linkhaus to move; building near 37th Street North and Rock Road is available

WICHITA — Linkhaus developers Robert Eyster and Michael Ramsey are planning to move their hot dog restaurant, which leaves their building near the southwest corner of 37th Street North and Rock Road available for another business.

“Over the past year we have seen how the market has driven us,” Ramsey says of the almost 1-year-old business.

“The market drives, at least in the hot dog-brat market . . . less of a price point,” he says. “The only way that we could capitalize on a smaller price point . . . is to decrease our overhead.”

The 3,500-square-foot, eco-friendly building with a large atrium for a dining room opened last year, but Ramsey says the hot dog and bar business didn’t draw people who wanted to stay for hours.

“It really didn’t work out as well as what we expected,” he says.

They’re not abandoning the concept, though.

“We’re certainly not dying,” Ramsey says.

He hopes to move to a strip center in the area and reduce prices.

Prices will drop starting April 2 in the current space along with an expanded menu, which will include chicken sandwiches, Angus burgers and fries.

“We’re adjusting to what the public wants,” Ramsey says.

He says a venue other than a restaurant could easily move to the Linkhaus space.

“The whole idea of the Linkhaus was the ability . . . for the concept to be modular, to be movable,” Ramsey says. “The building is that way.”

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Linkhaus developers to transform Zelman building into apartments, restaurant and office space

WICHITA — Linkhaus developers Robert Eyster and Michael Ramsey were looking for a second site to put their hot dog restaurant last year when they toured the Zelman building downtown.

They immediately realized two things: A Linkhaus isn’t quite right for that spot, but they wanted the 15,000-square-foot building anyway.

“It was a hidden gem,” says Ramsey, who is managing partner for the restaurant and Zelman project.

“Everybody knows about the Zelman building,” he says. “It’s certainly a hometown type of story that we thought was cool.”

Last month, Have You Heard? reported that lawyer David Moses had a contract to sell the building at Douglas and St. Francis where his grandfather Sam Zelman’s namesake men’s clothing store was from the 1920s to 2006.

Eyster and Ramsey didn’t want to say much about their plans for a restaurant, apartments and office space at the property until the deal closed, which it now has.

Eyster, an orthopedic surgeon, is interested in the project for several reasons.

“It’s an opportunity,” Ramsey says. “The city and the people of Wichita have been very good to him, and he feels like it’s his responsibility to try to give back.”

Eyster likes the timing with the city’s plan for redeveloping downtown.

“It’s a great idea. I’m all for it,” he says. “If I can be part of that development, I think it will be good for me, and I think it will be hopefully good for Wichita.”

Eyster says he started Linkhaus in part to give the people who work for him something else to do, and that’s part of his thinking behind the Zelman building, too.

Also, Eyster has investments here and outside of Wichita, but he says, “I’m really interested in getting more of my investment portfolio here. I’m able to keep a close eye and be more involved.”

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