Van Sickle planning downtown project

A Wichita developer announced plans Wednesday to redevelop two apartment buildings at Lewis and Emporia, in an area targeted by city officials for new downtown housing.

Jason Van Sickle, president of J. Van Sickle & Co., is planning between 24 and 48 new apartment units in two vacant buildings at the southwest corner of Lewis and Emporia. Estimated project cost is $3 million. Purchase price of the buildings was not disclosed.

"Development in this part of downtown is critical to the city's overall revitalization efforts," Van Sickle said.

"Projects northeast of the arena continue to see success, fueled by the popularity of Old Town, but it has taken real visionaries like Jack DeBoer and his WaterWalk to spur development south of the arena. We share in that vision and feel the time to invest is now."

Van Sickle's project is another example of private developers stepping forward downtown, said Jeff Fluhr, president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp.

"This is why it was so important for us to build a working master plan on economics and market opportunities," Fluhr said.

"We've been able to identify opportunities in residential, retail, office and hotels. Now, we're seeing responses to the information we're bringing together from our consulting team."

The deal comes two years after Van Sickle began negotiations with owners. The buildings were built in the 1920s, Van Sickle said.

His company is seeking partners, contractors and architects for the project and plans to announce those partners later this year.

Van Sickle plans to work closely with downtown redevelopment officials on this and other potential residential projects downtown.

"I've made it a priority to continue to meet with the mayor, the city manager and other officials to keep them up to date on my projects," he said.

"There's a lot the city can do to promote downtown revitalization, but it will take commitment and an attitude of cooperation from developers to really make the plan work."

Earlier this year, Van Sickle launched the Flats-324 with Old Town developer Dave Burk. The 68-unit, $7 million apartment complex just west of Old Town Square opened in January and has a waiting list.