There’s not a finalized deal yet, but Old Town developer Dave Burk, car dealer and businessman Brandon Steven and Key Construction president Dave Wells have a contract to buy The Wichita Eagle building downtown at 825 E. Douglas.
“The second I read that The Wichita Eagle was moving … I called right away,” Steven says. “I was extremely persistent … because I wanted that building so bad.”
In March, Eagle president and publisher Roy Heatherly announced the paper would be transferring its printing and packaging operations to Kansas City, Mo., in May and would no longer need the 181,000-square-foot building that holds its presses and other operations.
“As we continue to evolve as a multi-media provider of news and information and multi-platform marketing solutions, we remain steadfast in our commitment to our readers and the businesses we serve,” Heatherly said in a statement this week. “It’s not about the building in which we work, but rather the amazing people who help make south-central Kansas a better place to live and work.”
Steven says he and his partners have a couple of potential plans.
“We can’t tell you just yet,” he says. “All the options we have are really exciting.”
One of those options is a mixed-use development for retail and residential.
Depending on which plan works out, the building could be demolished or it could be completely renovated.
Steven says the building is especially strong structurally.
“They had to build it so strong” so it would hold the presses, he says.
However, he says the building needs a lot of updating.
It looks like redevelopment won’t begin for at least a year. The paper is considering other downtown options for relocation.
A sale price for the building hasn’t been disclosed.
The former Wichita Beacon was the first newspaper in the building after it was built as a two-story structure in 1954.
In 1960, The Eagle bought the stock and assets of the Beacon Newspaper Corp. and then published both papers, which eventually merged, out of the building. It was remodeled in 1961 and a partial third story was added.
Steven says partnering with his friends Burk and Wells – who were part of the group that proposed the Castle Rock Casino Resort project in southeast Kansas – makes sense.
“Dave Burk is obviously Mr. Old Town,” he says.
Steven says Wells brings another element with his background at Key Construction.
“It’s going to be a great partnership,” he says.
Regardless of which direction they go for redevelopment, Steven says, it makes sense to buy the building.
“It has the Douglas Street address,” he says. “It’s right in the middle of the heartbeat of Wichita.”