Carrie Rengers

Fidelity Bank’s $51 million expansion is ‘going to change the skyline of the city’

Fidelity Bank has its roots in a 10-story downtown building that just happened to belong to another bank.

Now, it is embarking on a $51 million project to build its own 10-story tower next to its existing five-story headquarters at Main and English across from the former downtown library.

“It’s going to change the skyline of the city,” said president Aaron Bastian.

The plan, which the bank has named Rise, A Beacon of Progress, will be built in two phases.

First, there will be the construction of a new 505-stall parking garage at the southeast corner of Market and English. The property currently is three parking lots. Fidelity owns one. It is buying another from a private owner and on Tuesday purchased a lot from the city.

The $16 million, 248,300-square-foot building will have 17,000 square feet of retail and office space on the first floor. Construction will start this summer and finish in the fall of 2020.

Shortly after, the bank’s existing parking structure next to its headquarters will be demolished, and construction will start on the $35 million office tower, which will have a rooftop park unlike anything else in Wichita. It will be completed in 2023.

Bastian said the first sign the bank needed to expand was when it started running out of parking. Then office space became an issue. The bank just finished remodeling its third and fourth floors for more room.

“But even with that we’re still nearly out of space again,” Bastian said.

“We’ve had double-digit growth year over year every year for the last six or seven years now.”

He said the bank, which has almost 500 employees, is adding about a dozen more every year between its main campus and ones in Oklahoma City and Overland Park.

The bank also had an expansion into the former Carnegie Library to the north of its headquarters about a decade ago.

“The tower is for our future growth,” Bastian said.

It’s a long way from when his great-grandfather, Homer Bastian, bought a half interest in the Fidelity Investment Co. in 1942 and opened a four-person office in the First National Bank building. That bank later became Intrust Bank, and the building is still its headquarters today.

The two banks will be part of only a handful of downtown buildings that are 10 stories or taller.

Aaron Bastian never knew his great-grandfather, but he did know his grandfather, Marvin Bastian, who bought the other half interest in Fidelity Investment in 1946 and bought Air Capital Savings, a $32 million asset savings and loan association in 1975.

He moved the bank to a couple of different places, including to a small building where the existing parking deck is today.

In the 1980s, Marvin Bastian and his son, Clark Bastian — Aaron Bastian’s father — built the bank’s current headquarters.

“They both thought . . . gosh this will be plenty of space for us forever. How could we ever fill this building?” Aaron Bastian said.

He said his grandfather would “be stunned at the success and the growth we’ve had over the years.”

The bank has $2.3 billion in assets.

The new tower would be a shocker, too, Bastian said.

“He’d be blown away.”

The employee lens

Leading the expansion project with Bastian is Melissa Knoeber, who until January had been Fidelity’s human resources director.

Now, she’s the bank’s director of culture and talent.

“We are looking at things through the lens of our people,” she said.

She said she and Bastian are approaching the expansion by keeping in mind how employees will use these new spaces.

To that end, they extensively researched parking garages in part by visiting about a dozen cities to see what works — and mostly what doesn’t work.

Fidelity’s car park, as the bank calls it, will be a $16 million building that looks like two separate structures. Bastian said that’s to avoid having it look like one large parking garage.

There will be lots of glass, light and openness for safety. It will be a gated garage that requires a badge. It’s possible Fidelity could lease stalls to other area businesses, but it won’t be a public garage.

Parking spaces will be wider than typical ones to make it easier and more comfortable for drivers. Every floor will have two-way traffic to make it more convenient.

“We’ve designed this with flat floors so that if for some reason in the future people aren’t . . . driving their car to work, and we don’t have a need for a car park, we can turn it into an office building or residential,” Bastian said.

“We’re making a 30-, 40-year investment. We want to be thoughtful in our designs so we have options as we go forward.”

Knoeber and Bastian said they want to work with employees to see what they might like for the ground floor of the parking garage, such as a restaurant, child care, a gym or a small pharmacy and corner store.

There will be a two-story walkway that connects the parking garage to the tower, which will be at the northwest corner of Market and English.

There will be an enclosed, temperature-controlled walkway with lots of light and glass that leads to the third floor, or employees can walk outside on the top of the walkway. The outdoor area will have grass and plants and lead to the fourth floor.

The $35 million tower will be 135,000 square feet. The price tag does not include the cost to build out each floor.

The first floor will be customer parking just under the tower.

Floors two through nine will be office space that ties into the existing headquarters.

The top floor will be an amenity space with a lawn, trees and a small park for employees.

“To our knowledge that will be unique to Wichita,” Bastian said.

Fidelity already has been asking employees what they might like there. Music and walking paths are a couple of requests so far.

Shelden Architecture is the architect and Conco Construction is the contractor.

In addition to extra space for the bank, Bastian said his family has related companies, such as an apartment management business, that will take space in the tower.

“We’d love to have them back in the building.”

Bastian said he and his father are keeping their offices in the Carnegie building.

“We like it here.”

‘Emotional draw’

Despite Fidelity’s long history in Wichita and investment in downtown, Bastian said he studied possibly leaving downtown or even the city.

“We explored it absolutely.”

He found many reasons to stay, in part because of what the bank already has here. There are emotional ties, too, from when he was a child.

“I’ve got great memories of coming down here with my dad,” Bastian said. “There’s that kind of emotional draw to it.”

Clark Bastian, too, said he remembers going to his father’s office as a child.

He was in charge of building the current headquarters in the 1980s.

“This was a big decision,” he said of building then. The $7 million cost “was equivalent to our net worth at the time.”

Clark Bastian was in charge of all the details, including nitty-gritty ones such as ordering swivel chairs and pencil trays.

“I don’t think Aaron’s coloring up any blueprints like I did,” he said.

Clark Bastian said he now looks at his son spearheading the expansion and making strides with the bank just as his father did with him.

“I can remember my dad telling me things like, ‘Wow, you’re really getting to hire some great people and doing some great things that I just couldn’t afford to do back in the days.’

“To me, I think my head’s spinning the way my dad’s was back then.”

Clark Bastian said he never wanted to leave downtown.

“It is the heart of our city. . . . It’s where it all began pretty much.”

He said for years, he’d walk to get his hair cut at Douglas and Broadway and not pass a single building with people in it.

That’s all now changing.

“The momentum in downtown is tremendous,” Aaron Bastian said.

“I also just philosophically believe a healthy downtown makes for a healthy city,” he said. “If we can be part of that and have success as a private business, then great.”

Jason Gregory, executive vice president of Downtown Wichita said the “investment by Fidelity Bank will be a tremendous catalyst for downtown — and we look forward to seeing the further activation of this primary gateway into downtown. This project will also be transformative to downtown’s skyline and will be incredible to watch from Kellogg when the cranes go to work. It’s inspiring to see another one of our great companies investing in themselves and their future workforce.”

Bastian is already thinking about what will come next after this $51 million investment.

“There’s always going to be something . . . in the investment in the future of the business,” he said.

“It would be great to think that yeah, you know, we’ll be done, and we can rest a little bit. But I don’t think we’ll ever be done.”

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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.