Carrie Rengers

A Wichita company named for a downtown building will return downtown — but not to that building

Occidental Management is returning to downtown, but not to the building for which it’s named.

The real estate company will take the almost 14,000-square-foot third floor of Union Station’s former icehouse, a 1901 building the company is renovating at 155 S. Rock Island between Union Station and the new Cargill offices.

“When you’ve got this project and then the size and scope of Union Station just on the other side of it, it makes sense for us to relocate down here and be right in the middle of things,” says Occidental president Chad Stafford.

Gary Oborny started the company in 1997 and named it for Occidental Plaza, an 1873 former hotel downtown that was the first major building he bought. Then he moved the company’s headquarters to the east side near 32nd and Rock Road when he remodeled a theater into Northrock 6 Offices.

“We decided at that point we needed to be one of the anchor tenants for that building so we moved out of downtown, and that’s been almost 11 years now,” Oborny says.

He says it makes sense to move back “with everything happening downtown, with the purchase of this property and this building . . . and us in need of space.”

Occidental will almost double the size of its headquarters. The company currently has 28 employees but is jumping to 40 with the acquisition of the Sprint campus in Overland Park. It also has a Kansas City office.

“We want to be a regional developer,” Oborny says.

A Dallas office will be next.

“We’re working on Dallas right now from a target standpoint,” he says.

There will be a groundbreaking at the Ice House, which is what Occidental is calling the building, at 4 p.m. on Thursday.

Occidental has been remodeling the Union Station campus in stages. With the former icehouse, where ice from rail cars was stored, Oborny saw an opportunity to convert the building to Class A office space.

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

“This is a very unique building,” Oborny says. He says they realized they “can do something really cool with it.”

The building has been popular for years with photographers who use its aged red brick for backdrops in senior portraits, pet photos and other pictures. Most of that brick will be repurposed elsewhere and will be replaced with a — more modern steel-and-glass facade.

Oborny says the look will be a mix of classic contemporary and industrial.

Inside the building, structural piers will be left exposed.

New steel columns on the addition will be exposed as well. Oborny says he’ll save brick where appropriate.

“We want a combination of that brick and that structural look along with something very modern.”

There also will be a 2,000-square-foot rooftop patio.

“All the walls are going to actually be able to open up so that we can have that just free flow when we want to, from outside to inside,” Oborny says.

Inside the offices, he says there will be a lot of touch screens and other technology for employees and customers to use.

He says the entire look will be a “very contemporary, very open format.”

Alloy Architecture is the architect.

Stafford says they’re working on tenants for the other two floors.

The building will be ready for tenants by the end of this year.

“It’s going to look sharp,” Oborny says. “It’s got to have a little edge to it.”

However sharp or edgy the building may wind up, that’s no guarantee it’ll be Occidental’s permanent home.

Ask Stafford if this is the company’s final move, and he deflects with a quick two words.

“For now.”

Carrie Rengers has been a reporter for almost three decades, including 16 years at The Wichita Eagle. Her Have You Heard? column of business scoops runs five days a week in The Eagle. If you have a tip, please e-mail or tweet her or call 316-268-6340.