July 15, 2012

Lux to offer family residences downtown

Among the residential projects under way in downtown Wichita is one with a unique market demographic.

Among the residential projects under way in downtown Wichita is one with a unique market demographic.

Downtown officials said the Lux, in the former Kansas Gas & Electric building at First and Market, stands out because it is targeting families to take up residence in the seven-story building whose last commercial tenant was alarm company Protection One.

“What’s interesting about the Lux is it’s going to be a segment of the market we haven’t seen,” said Jason Gregory, executive vice president at Wichita Downtown Development Corp. “Right now there’s not a ton of options drawing and attracting families. I just think it’s going to be a unique product.”

The more than 170,000-square-foot Lux is being developed by Robert Eyster and Michael Ramsey. Eyster and Ramsey’s other downtown projects include: the former Zelman building, the former Woolf Brothers space, the former Board of Trade building at 120 S. Market, the former Merrill Lynch building at 100 S. Market, Kelly Donham’s former property on Douglas Avenue between Main and Market streets and the Caldwell-Murdock building next to it.

Jeremy Luginbill, principal of Lifeboat Creative, the marketing agency representing the Lux, said there are three target markets for the building, which will have more than 60 units primarily comprising one- and two-bedroom apartments: single adults, empty-nesters and families.

“We are looking to get people who want to be part of living downtown regardless of demographic,” he said. “In essence somebody could move into a one-bedroom (apartment) … can have children and still stay. We see people growing within … the Lux.”

The building will feature an outdoor space on its third-floor terrace that will incorporate trees and plants and be large enough for children to play, he said.

Another smaller terrace on the top floor of the building will be designed for residents who don’t have children and provide them outdoor space to entertain guests. One conceptual rendering of the seventh-floor terrace shows a small pool, grass and plants, and lounge seating.

Cost of the project is estimated between $13 million and $15 million. While developers are pursuing an effort to get the building listed on the historic registry, Luginbill said it’s more for getting recognition of “the fact that we are trying to maintain the character of the building” rather than to get historic tax credits for the work done to the building.

“I don’t know that I would say that’s the end goal,” he said of the building built for KG&E in 1953.

Work currently is limited to “deconstructing” the interior, Luginbill said. He said key to the project is “that whole philosophy of what was old is now new again.”

“We are taking our time” with demolition, Luginbill said. “We are looking at what pieces we can re-use and how we can re-use them. Part of that is being eco-conscious. There’s no reason to bring in new materials if we don’t have to.”

Among those pieces is a large, honeycomb-style light fixture that nearly encompasses the length and width of one conference room in the building. The re-use effort could also include some of the Bauhaus-style clocks that are present throughout the building, he said.

Developers also will be seeking to have the building LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certified, which demonstrates a project’s green features, including its energy efficiency.

Luginbill said construction will begin after the demolition is complete. He said he didn’t have a time frame for when construction will begin, but bids have been let to subcontractors.

Farha Construction is the general contractor and El Dorado Architects in Kansas City is the architect.

Luginbill said completion is expected in mid- to late 2013. Pricing for the one- and two-bedroom apartments is pending, he said.

Demand for more

Officials said there is demand for more residential units downtown.

“In terms of the market opportunity that was identified in the (Goody-Clancy) plan. It identified about 1,500 units over the next five to seven years,” said Scott Knebel, downtown revitalization manager for the Metropolitan Area Planning Department. “It’s safe to say there’s significantly more market than what is being built right now.”

Luginbill said the Lux has “a couple of different people” with whom it’s having conversations about commercial space.

On the residential side, he said there have been “upwards of 75 inquiries.”

Gregory, of WDDC, said nearly all of the downtown residential units that have been completed are currently leased. “Downtown residential seems to be a hot market,” he said.

In recent years the pace of downtown residential units opening has been a few hundred. That is a manageable pace, he said, and with the Lux coming online next year, it won’t create a situation of having too many units creating an interruption in that pace.

“We’re still seeing that we can do more,” Gregory said.

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