On Tuesday, the Wichita City Council will consider industrial revenue bonds for the latest downtown residential, office and retail project.
The council will consider $21.5 million in bonds for The Lux, a $24 million “community within a building” renovation of the old Kansas Gas & Electric Co. building on the northwest corner of First and Market. Developers Robert Eyster and Michael Ramsey plan to renovate the existing 175,000-square-foot building into 60 residential units for homeowners and renters, along with office and retail. Planned renovations include an amenities penthouse, including a pool, workout facility, fireplace, common room, theater and kitchenette. In addition, the building will receive new infrastructure and elevators, according to city documents.
The project will bring together a variety of socio-economic renters and owners in a building with many of the everyday community services they will need.
“It’s really about a sense of community downtown, a sense of belonging to a group of people in this building,” said Lux spokesman Jeremy Luginbill. “We’re focusing on a sense of community like in the suburbs, but bringing it downtown. You have the things available to you that you need — a playground, exercise area, theater, potentially a workplace in commercial the first two floors.
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“It’s a sense of community in this building that’s a microcosm of the community we’re trying to build downtown.”
Jason Gregory, executive vice president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp., said the project fills a niche in an underserved residential area of downtown.
“Most residential downtown is confined to the greater Old Town area, and now we have an opportunity to bring on some first class residential in a new area ... that’s close to the new Downtown Y, close to a major employer in Cargill,” Gregory said.
According to city documents provided to the council, the project includes $2 million in developer equity and a $750,000 special assessment for facade work and asbestos removal, essentially a city loan. The remainder of the project will be financed by the IRBs, which will be placed with Intrust Bank.
The city IRB issue, if approved, also will provide a sales tax exemption on construction materials. And Lux developers have applied for historic tax credits as well.
The building was designed in 1953 by Thomas and Harris Architects in Wichita, with an addition designed in 1969. A five-story addition was built in 1969 on the west side of the building. The building underwent its last major renovation in 1988, when it was sold to the Protection One Alarm Co. Protection One occupied the building until 2009.