Business

Sutton Place will ring in new year with new venue space

Najib Sleiman assembles a chandelier to hang in the Skyline Venue on the 10th floor of Sutton Place. The renovation of the space is being done in time for a Wednesday night fundraiser for the Mayflower Clinic. A public grand opening is being planned for Jan. 23.
Najib Sleiman assembles a chandelier to hang in the Skyline Venue on the 10th floor of Sutton Place. The renovation of the space is being done in time for a Wednesday night fundraiser for the Mayflower Clinic. A public grand opening is being planned for Jan. 23. The Wichita Eagle

This New Year’s Eve, the top of Sutton Place will be brightly lit and festive for the first time in ages.

Entrepreneur Kim Sleiman is renovating the 10th floor of the partly occupied building at Market and William into the Skyline Venue event space.

She is kicking off the reopening Wednesday night with a fundraiser for the Mayflower Clinic, which provides medical services to low-income clients. The leaders of the clinic hope to raise enough money to hire a physician’s assistant to take some of the load off the volunteer doctors.

Sleiman was working in a doctor’s office more than a year ago when her parents passed away and she took a year off to rethink her life.

She had always liked giving parties, she said, and event businesses have long waiting lists, suggesting unmet need.

“This is my dream,” she said.

She started the project in October, but the renovation accelerated in recent weeks with workmen and family members scurrying to and fro assembling chandeliers and painting fixtures. The room has space for 400 with a catering kitchen, dance floor and playroom for children.

“We haven’t gotten much sleep,” she said during a visit on Monday.

“I am so sick of fried chicken, burgers, pizza,” said Abdul Arif, who is Sleiman’s landlord and was working on the renovation.

It’s been a long time since the floor was this busy. It most recently was home to a shop that made custom-designed stick-shift knobs for hot rods, beer-tap handles and custom collectibles, but it left five years ago.

Once a prominent office building downtown, Sutton Place has had low occupancy and under-investment for two decades. But this year it got new local owners who are renovating the building piece by piece.

Sutton Place was erected in 1923 as the York Rite Temple. After a few owners, Wichita industrialist and oilman O.A. Sutton bought and renovated the building in 1964, adding the white facade and the 11th-floor penthouse for himself and his wife.

In 1966, an above-the-street walkway was constructed to connect Sutton Place with the former Macy’s building and a parking garage on the southwest corner of William and Market. The former Macy’s building is now the State Office Building.

As office tenants moved out of downtown starting in the 1980s, the building saw its share of hard times. It went through foreclosure in 1997.

The building wasn’t helped much by its purchase in 2006 by Dave Lundberg and Michael Elzufon, dubbed the Minnesota Guys. The pair split the floors up legally and sold them individually to investors, but the developers were never were able to fill most of the floors with tenants. Most of the floors eventually went through foreclosure. The new owners of the floors are all local investors, including Arif and Jeremiah Connelly, who have businesses in the building.

Sleiman’s event business will be one of the first new businesses in the building, and certainly one of the most prominent. She also is the booking agent for the penthouse on the building’s 11th floor.

She’s already got her first wedding booked, for Valentine’s Day. She’s excited and looking forward to getting her business off the ground.

“If I’m going to put 150 percent into something, I’d rather put it into myself than someone else,” she said.

Reach Dan Voorhis at 316-268-6577 or dvoorhis@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @danvoorhis.

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