A mere seven years or so ago, Sasnak Management president Jon Rolph says he couldn’t have envisioned putting one of his company’s restaurants downtown. That’s changed.
“We can see where downtown’s going, and we can see how important this project is,” Rolph says. “It’s going to be a beautiful centerpiece to the downtown ecosystem here, and the community ought to be really excited about the asset that we’re getting in the new Naftzger Park.”
Rolph says the $1.4 million donation that Evergy — the newly merged Westar Energy and Kansas City Power & Light — made to the $3.9 million cost for the district’s Naftzger Park transformation “helped impact our decision, too, just to see their commitment to it and partnership.”
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The Martin Pringle law firm will face Douglas, and HomeGrown will be just south, though its address will be 645 E. Douglas. The restaurant will open onto the park.
There will be a breezeway between the businesses that will lead to 90 new parking spaces at the building. Combined with immediate street parking around the district, there are 150 parking places total.
There will be patio seating in front of HomeGrown.
“For us to have a location that’s going to engage the park and spill out into the park, it’s just really thrilling for us,” Rolph says.
Like the first HomeGrown that opened at 29th and Maize Road in May 2017, the new one will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 2: 30 p.m. daily.
Rolph says at Christmas, he began testing private events at the restaurant in the evening, and he expects that to be a big part of the downtown HomeGrown. There’s a chance the restaurant could open in the evenings as well.
“We’re open to explore all kinds of possibilities,” Rolph says. “This is way different than being at 29th and Maize.”
HomeGrown will have 135 seats in 4,400 square feet and will open in late 2019 or early 2020 at the same time as Martin Pringle.
“The whole goal is for this thing to be active all the time,” says Nick Esterline of TGC Development Group, which is developing the district.
He says landing HomeGrown “is huge for a couple of reasons.”
First, Esterline says, it’s “a great local concept” with great food.
“Also having somebody as deeply entrenched into the community and behind downtown specifically as the Rolphs are and as Sasnak is as a company, we think is just tremendous. We think it . . . sends a message to others in the community that are looking at this project. You know, holy smokes, there’s a big name and a big group that’s diving in head first and committing to this project.”
Rolph is co-chair of the Greater Wichita Partnership.
He says it’s exciting “just getting to watch how we’ve changed the trajectory of downtown and how it’s hit a tipping point. Property values are going up and people are moving downtown and more and more businesses are coming down. There’s a reason for that. Because the commerce is there. The people are there.”
He says “there very well could be a day” that Sasnak’s Carlos O’Kelly’s concept opens downtown beyond the kiosk it’s in at Intrust Bank Arena.
TGC is converting the former Spaghetti Works building into 41 apartments, which will be ready in early 2019.
Esterline says the remaining spaces for the building in front of the apartments are filling fast.
“The activity that we’ve got right now is a little bit overwhelming.”
Another couple of announcements will happen as soon as letters of intent are signed.
“It depends on how fast Brad can type LOIs,” Esterline says of his business partner, Brad Saville.
“We’re being extremely selective,” Saville says. “We’re trying to put the right tenant mix together.”
Rolph says he’s never signed a restaurant deal for one that’s so far out from opening.
“We felt like we needed to jump on this opportunity because I think this thing is filling pretty fast,” he says. “There’s a lot of excitement around it, and the excitement is there for good reason.”
Esterline says he agrees that Evergy’s investment has made a difference in how quickly things are happening.
“Evergy’s commitment seems to have spurred phone calls faster because now everybody understands. This is not going to be a phased park. This is going to be a $3.9 million masterpiece day one, and you know, people want to be a part of that.”