Carrie Rengers

Former Merrill Lynch building to transform into CorTen (VIDEO)

Exchange Place and the Bitting Building are getting all the attention at the northeast and northwest corners of Douglas and Market, but the former Merrill Lynch building on the southeast corner is about to give them some competition.

After buying the building – it’s the one alongside Wichita’s well-known ice cream soda fountain statue – about five years ago, developers Robert Eyster and Michael Ramsey are now remodeling it. First tenant Cassandra Bryan Design should be able to move in by Sept. 15.

“It was just a perfect time to get this building up and running,” Ramsey says. “It’s going to be beautiful.”

That’s not the case currently, he says, referring to it as “that real ugly building on the corner.”

He and Eyster are renaming the building CorTen for the material they’re using to remodel the exterior, which is trademarked as COR-TEN.

“COR-TEN is a material that is a rusted steel material that we’re going to put on the outside of the building. It kind of changes with time and has a beautiful patina.”

The two-story, 13,000-square-foot building will be home to a number of businesses, most of which will take between 350 and 600 square feet each.

CBD, as the design firm bills itself, will take 3,400 square feet, which is almost all of the first floor.

Currently, the business is in Eyster and Ramsey’s Zelman Lofts at the northeast corner of Douglas and St. Francis.

“We are moving because we have outgrown our current space,” says Cassandra Bryan, creative director for the full-service creative agency. “We absolutely love our location. There’s just nowhere to go.”

There are eight full-time staff members in two open areas, so that means a lot of phone calls and meetings overlapping one another.

“We have to be very strategic about our scheduling, let’s put it that way,” Bryan says.

At the CorTen space, Bryan says, she’s been able to design her own floor plan with a couple of meeting spaces, a full kitchen and a private office for herself.

She says she likes that she’ll still have brick on her floors and walls along with high ceilings.

Also, Bryan says her staff will be able to grow in the space. She says she’s hiring an account manager “so that I can somewhat clone myself.” She plans to add another person or two in the coming year.

The agency does branding, website design and digital marketing, but Bryan says it’s been especially focused on the custom website and design end of the business.

Bryan says she wants CBD to be the go-to company for custom website designs.

Leisa Lowry and Kristin Stang of J.P. Weigand & Sons handled the deal for the space and will handle leasing for the building. Farha Construction is the contractor, and Daniel Gensch of Shelden Architecture is the architect.

Eyster and Ramsey initially didn’t plan numerous small businesses for the CorTen building.

“We bought the building when we were thinking it was going to be part of the Board of Trade complex,” Ramsey says of the building on Market where they’d planned a hotel.

“We just don’t think another boutique hotel … is really going to fly,” he says. “Not to say it won’t in the future.”

He says there had been a parking issue as well, but now the renovated former Macy’s garage half a block away will be available.

Eyster and Ramsey, who have also renovated the Lux and Renfro buildings downtown, aren’t moving ahead with remodeling the Board of Trade building yet.

“We’re going to do one building at a time,” Ramsey says.

The CorTen building’s remodeling will be completed before the more extensive work that’s transforming the Exchange and Bitting buildings. Ramsey says it’s something for it to all be happening at once.

“It’s really an exciting time on the corner of Market and Douglas.”

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or Follow her on Twitter: @CarrieRengers.