Politics & Government

Art space or culinary college? You can help pick new use for old fire station

Butler Community College withdrew its proposal to move its culinary and hospitality program to a fire station in downtown Wichita after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Wichita State University.
Butler Community College withdrew its proposal to move its culinary and hospitality program to a fire station in downtown Wichita after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Wichita State University. Courtesy of city of Wichita

You'll soon get the chance to weigh in on whether the old fire station on South Topeka becomes a shared space for artists and entrepreneurs or the new home of Butler Community College's culinary arts program.

Residents are invited to an open house April 26 to see presentations on both proposals and make their comments on what they'd like to see in the old brick firehouse at 500 S. Topeka.

The city declared the property as surplus and offered it for development, hoping it would become the "catalyst" for future development in an area that has lagged behind other parts of downtown.

An evaluation committee has narrowed the field to two projects and a decision of which one gets the building is expected next month:

FireWorx.JPG
Design proposal for FireWorx, a shared-leased space building for artists, professionals and business startups. City of Wichita


FireWorx — This plan would offer a mix of shared space and dedicated leased space for artists and start-up businesses, according to the development proposal. It would have a cafe, art gallery and shared work spaces on the first floor, with leased space on the mezzanine and second floors. "Shared space memberships would be priced as low as $100 per month and leases dedicated spaces would be as low as $500 per month, making the spaces accessible to a wide range of artists, freelancers and professionals."

The project is proposed by a partnership of oilman Alan Banta, marketing executive Bruce Rowley and developer Mike Snyder. The trio has already redeveloped one building for retail and office space in the area, at 400 S. Commerce; and it's working on a second concept for a mixed-use building incorporating shipping containers at 415 S. St. Francis near Intrust Bank Arena. They're offering $75,000 for the building as part of an overall $1 million renovation plan.

Butler.JPG
Butler Community College withdrew its proposal to move its culinary and hospitality program to a fire station in downtown Wichita after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Wichita State University. Courtesy of city of Wichita

Culinary college — The proponent of this project, Vantage Holdings, plans to lease the entire fire station to Butler Community College for its Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts program. The college would invest about $4 million remodeling the building. The first floor would be mostly taken up by four instructional kitchens, according to the proposal. The second floor would be primarily classroom and office space. The company is offering $100,000 for the building.

Vantage is led by commercial real estate developer/broker Paul Jackson. The company has built several projects in the Wichita area, including the Andover Marketplace at Kellogg and Andover Road, the Lakeside at the Waterfront Office Park and the Sunstone Apartments.

The proposals will be presented in depth at an open house at the headquarters of Downtown Wichita, 505 E. Douglas. Following the presentation, residents will be encouraged to provide their comments to help guide the City Council in choosing the final plan.

The event is scheduled for 5 to 6:30 p.m.

It's the second time — Delano was the first — that the city has used a process of narrowing development proposals to two and then going to the public for input on which one to select, Mayor Jeff Longwell said.

"That's part of the new process we have instituted for these sites that we now deem are 'catalytic' sites . . . that will inspire development to occur," Longwell said.

He said the city is open to multiple types of development around the firehouse site.

Dion Lefler; 316-268-6527, @DionKansas
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