Three vacant historic apartment buildings downtown will be demolished as WaterWalk developers had hoped.
The Wichita City Council approved the appeal developers had against the Historic Preservation Board, which previously denied the developers’ request.
The vacant buildings – known as the Leona, Naomi and Ellington apartments – are on the National Register of Historic Places and the Register of Historic Kansas Places.
WaterWalk and Main Street Apartments USA are buying the three buildings, which are east of the WaterWalk development downtown at 507 S. Market, 509 S. Market and 514 S. Main.
Developers plan to replace the buildings with possibly two commercial buildings, including a bank and office building, said David Redfern, president of WaterWalk LLC.
The site could also potentially offer additional downtown parking, he said.
The council voted 5-1 to approve demolition. Council member James Clendenin did not attend the meeting and council member Janet Miller was the lone no vote.
“I just haven’t given up hope that we’ll find a developer willing and able to make an investment in those properties,” Miller said.
WaterWalk has been in the process of purchasing the property for about three months, Redfern said.
“We feel like that’s a critical corner of the city and we wanted to clean it up,” Redfern told the council.
The city has responded to nuisance calls of homeless people getting into the buildings, and at least two fires have started inside one of the buildings, according to city documents.
“This is not an easy task to take on, but it’s one that needed to be done,” said council member Lavonta Williams. The buildings are in Williams’ council district and she said she hesitates to tear down historic buildings.
“The buildings had been in that condition for quite a few years now and it doesn’t look like we’re going to have any development on those for awhile,” Williams said. “The more they sit, the worse condition they become. Even though they are historic, just because they are historic doesn’t mean we should let them sit and continue to deteriorate if we don’t have a developer that’s going to restore them. It’s across the street from some fairly nice development in the downtown area and everyone wants their neighborhood to look nice and inviting.”