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Downtown Wichita’s Player Piano building to become apartments

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012, at 6:16 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, June 19, 2012, at 8:51 a.m.

Old Town developer Dave Burk has announced plans for a $4 million, 40-unit apartment complex in the old Player Piano building in the 700 block of East Douglas.

Burk is planning six two-bedroom and 34 one-bedroom apartments between 700 and 1,200 square feet in the six-level structure built in 1901. Rents will run between $800 and $1,400, or about $1.15 a square foot. Work should begin soon with a goal of opening late this year. Burk bought the Player Piano building two years ago.

“Right now, downtown has a high occupancy rate,” Burk said. “It’s a great building with big windows, and I think that once we get all the windows on the east side open, it will be a spectacular space because of the natural lighting and wood floors.”

The announcement is the latest residential addition to downtown, an essential move to allow retail and restaurants to be successfully recruited to the core, said Jeff Fluhr, president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp. As of Thursday, no public incentives have been requested from the city of Wichita, said Allen Bell, the city’s director of urban development.

“It’s a cornerstone of what we want to see happen to the viability of our downtown,” Fluhr said. “It’s essential to the complementary markets we have a demand for, like retail and restaurants. And as projects come online like the Zelman’s nearby (at the corner of Douglas and St. Francis) are absorbed quickly, we see the demand easily.”

The 33,000-square-foot building is a heavy timber structure, Burk said, with thick wood, wood columns, wood beams and floors.

“It’s in good shape and has some nice attractions,” Burk said. “The exterior brick walls, the really high 16-foot ceilings on the first and second floors.”

Burk said he hopes to begin work as soon as financing is complete, something he’s confident will happen.

“I had originally hoped to do condos in the building, but I don’t think the condo market is coming back soon,” Burk said. “So it’s purely a lease project.”

Burk, who is a partner in the downtown Ambassador Hotel project at Douglas and Broadway, said he’s looking for more residential development opportunities.

“I normally do one project at a time, but I’m connected with the Ambassador project and that’s taking time, and now this,” he said. “I’m looking for additional buildings, but none is available in Old Town so I’m looking downtown.”

Reach Bill Wilson at 316-268-6290 or bwilson@wichitaeagle.com.

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