Carrie Rengers

Occidental Management to convert turn-of-the-century icehouse into offices

UPDATED — Even before Occidental Management’s renovation of Union Station is complete, the company is taking on another nearby building to refurbish and expand.

“This particular building was the icehouse building,” Occidental chairman and CEO Gary Oborny says of the 1901 building at 155 and 165 S. Rock Island between Union Station and the new Cargill building.

“So when ice and products came into Wichita that needed to be refrigerated, then this was the place (they) came,” Oborny says. “We’re going to turn it into a Class A office building, which is what we do.”

The 27,000-square-foot building, which Occidental will expand by 12,000 square feet by bumping out the east wall, most recently has been used for storage. It started as a hardware warehouse and then in 1909 began storing ice, too.

Oborny bought the building in January.

“It hasn’t had a lot of love for a while,” he says.

The building is one of the last couple that had been in a line of warehouses down the road.

“The guts in general are good,” says Occidental president Chad Stafford.

There are actually two buildings in one that are divided by a brick wall that Occidental will remove.

“We’re going to redo the structure top to bottom,” Oborny says.

That’s while also saving much of the brick and other character in the building.

“It’s got a unique construction to it,” Oborny says.

The thick walls have cork insulation, which was to keep the ice from melting.

“The good news is . . . because it’s going to be office, no one needs bulletin boards,” Stafford jokes.

There are also openings along the edges inside the building where there used to be metal troughs.

“The ice would have been melting,” Oborny says. “The water would have gone in there, and then drained out the building.”

Occidental will add new windows where previous ones have been bricked over. It also will add balconies to the building along with a rooftop patio.

Oborny says the idea is to add contemporary elements to a historical structure, which renderings of the new structure show.

“It’s pretty sharp,” he says. “It’s going to turn out nice.”

Alloy Architecture is the architect.

Oborny says there are other unique aesthetics, such as a former freight elevator on the south side of the building.

Stafford says it’s something they might be able to cut windows in for office space.

Construction will start in the spring, and tenants will be able to move in by the end of next year.

Most likely, that will be all office users, though Oborny says there could be a restaurant on the first floor.

He and Stafford found an unexpected second basement on the south side of the building.

“We had visions of speakeasies,” Stafford says.

It’s cost-prohibitive to finish the space, though, so it’ll be storage instead.

Still, the two plan to call the reconfigured building the Icehouse, so it seems like there ought to be a bar somewhere in the building.

Stafford agrees and jokes, “I think we’re going to go with Gary and Chad’s Mixed Drinks at Icehouse.”

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or