Longtime downtown Wichita building to be renovated, renamed

Another major renovation is coming to a struggling downtown Wichita property, this time at 125 N. Market.

“We want to take this building back to something Wichita’s proud of,” Will Harmon said.

He and Sean Crawford — both native Wichitans in the real estate business — are leading the redevelopment of the 1962 building, which at 19 floors once was the tallest in Kansas.

Crawford was looking for real estate investments when he came across the property and then started discussing it with Harmon.

“Our minds were just spinning with ideas,” he said.

They’re doing a live-work-play concept with apartments, offices, retail and a sky park with a pool and numerous amenities.

“It’ll look like from 1960s to modern-day awesome,” Harmon said.

The building has been known by several names. It started as the Wichita Plaza and became known for Vickers Petroleum, which once was a major tenant.

The building now will be known as Vickers Tower, and the new apartments will be the Balconies at Vickers Tower.

“We’re taking it back to original heyday,” Crawford said.

The building also once was known as the Kansas State Bank & Trust building, which featured a time and temperature display atop the building, and then became the SCTelcom building.

The Minnesota Guys, developers from Minnesota whose Real Development attempted to redevelop the property, named it the Wichita Executive Centre in 2007 and then lost the building in foreclosure.

Salt Lake City-based Security National Life Insurance took over the property and named it 125 N. Market. That’s the current name and the company that owns the building.

Harmon and Crawford expect to close on their purchase in 100 days. They say the purchase and renovation total $53 million, but they won’t give individual costs for the 472,000-square-foot building and renovations.

No one with Security National Life could be reached for comment.

“They’ve done a really great job of building out the office spaces that are there currently,” Harmon said. “The only problem is that most of the floors . . . are vacant.”

Harmon said only 15% of the building is occupied, and only 20% of the building is renovated.

“The rest of it needs some love.”

‘There’s just a need’

There are two key things that Crawford and Harmon said will set apart Vickers Tower: amenities and a low price point for entry into the apartments.

Crawford said most medium-income earners can’t afford to live in downtown apartments.

“There’s just a need,” Harmon said.

Rents will be $700 to about $2,500 for 400-square-foot studios to almost 3,000-square-foot three-bedroom apartments.

Even with the studio apartments, Crawford said, they will overlook the sky park, have balconies and are “still going to have nice finishes.”

Every apartment will have at least one if not two balconies. That’s something Crawford said is also unusual downtown, which is why he and Harmon are including it in the name.

Harmon said the balconies “will make the building really pop and stand out so much better and give it some definition.”

On the first floor, there will be the kind of retail that people living or working in the building could use, such as a grocery.

Crawford said he and Harmon are pursuing one “with all the energy we’ve got.”

They also want to provide options for coffee, cocktails, haircuts, laundry and dry cleaning. A day care and pharmacy also are possibilities.

The sky park will be on the sixth floor where there used to be an Olympic-sized swimming pool surrounded by an atrium for the string of hotels that once were there.

The redevelopment will downsize the pool to make room for amenities such as a dog park, a dog wash area, pickleball courts and a grill and lounging area.

Harmon said they also plan to open the south side of the atrium for more light and air.

Floors two through five are a parking garage, which Crawford said is another amenity. There will be storage units in the building on that level as well.

Floors six through nine, where the hotels used to be, and floors 10 and 11 will be converted to about 145 apartments. Floor plans are still being finalized.

Everything, in fact, is still being finalized.

“This thing honestly . . . is a monster,” Crawford said of the size of the project.

Floors 18 and 19 may be offices with balconies or possibly higher-end condominiums.

After they close on the property, Crawford and Harmon expect to start construction within 60 days, and it should be finished in two years.

SPT Architecture is the architect, and Jaco General Contractor is the contractor.

Crawford said the coronavirus pandemic is not affecting plans.

“What we’re living through is not the new normal, but it is just a little bit of a speed bump.”

Local investment

In addition to a couple of minority partners they already have, Harmon and Crawford are looking for more local investors.

“We would like to keep that local because the rest of our team is local,” Harmon said.

He said they have interested out-of-state investors, but Harmon said keeping everything local shows a commitment to the property that some investors in the past may not have had.

Crawford said he lives 2 miles from the building.

“We’re all invested in making this work.”

He said raising money won’t be an issue in part because they’re “taking on a piece of Wichita and making it beautiful.”

Foulston Siefkin attorney Harvey Sorensen is involved as legal counsel. Though he’s not an investor, Sorensen said he is invested in helping make it happen.

“It’s really, really important for downtown for this (property) to be rehabilitated,” he said. “It’s the heart of downtown.”

As it stands now, Harmon said the building doesn’t help downtown or help companies entice workers to Wichita.

He said he wants to make the building a place where someone from elsewhere sees it and says, “I’ll move to Wichita to live in a fun place like that.”

Harmon said it’s not out of the question to think that could happen.

“It’s going to be a spectacular building.”

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.

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