Finn Lofts to include businesses

David Farha has an eye for tradition.

That's a big reason why he's launching the second phase of his Finn Lofts project at 430 S. Commerce: build-to-suit first-floor commercial "live and work" frontage.

Farha's reshaping the old Finn building, once home to a broom manufacturer and an Amana and Sylvania distributorship, into 25 condo-style apartments that when full will house 55 people.

But on the first floor, Farha wants to expand on Commerce Street's live-and-work tradition, with as many as six build-to-suit commercial spaces that can include living quarters.

Condos will be occupied by June 1.

"It's something different. It's unique," Farha said. "It's something that really isn't available commercially in this market, but it's being done up and down Commerce Street.

"We're inspired by the environment. We want to keep it the same down here."

Business targets are creative-oriented, consistent with the Commerce Street tradition, Farha said.

"Professional people," he said. "Architects, engineers, a marketing company, maybe a design company."

The Finn building has 7,800 square feet available for up to six commercial/residential spaces on the first floor, Farha said.

One space on the south side of the building has been earmarked for a cafe, he said.

Owners also are taking lease reservations for the 25 lofts, including eight two-story units, four two-bedroom, and four one-bedroom. Rents range from $750 to $1,600.

Three two-bedroom units have open-air entertaining areas within the apartment. There are six units with balconies that overlook the roof, including four two-bedroom and two one-bedroom.

It's the kind of local entrepreneurship that Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said he hoped to trigger by spurring downtown revitalization.

"These are things that no one's thought about before in Wichita," the mayor said. "We're trying to bring some of these best practices back to cause the light to go on. It's just great to see people with ideas like this one."

Farha's first-floor commercial project is "creating a life for a building beyond 8 to 5," said Jeff Fluhr, president of the Greater Wichita Downtown Development Corp.

"The higher you can create activity on the first floor, the better off you're going to be in terms of walkability and streetscape development," Fluhr said.

Farha's project fits Goody Clancy's evolving downtown revitalization plan "just beautifully," said David Dixon, the principal in charge of planning and design for the Boston-based consultant.

"It's a setting that works in what we see in Wichita from a commercial and residential perspective," Dixon said. "It will feel like part of the neighborhood, while keeping a first-floor setting that really works from a commercial perspective."