2018 Capital-Journal Downtown Topeka special section

Page 1

Sunday, June 17, 2018  A1

DOWNTOWN: ITS TIME IS NOW S E C T I O N 1 O F 4 : R E TA I L

This rendering of the Cyrus Hotel at night highlights the old-school feel of the design with the sign on top of the building and the facades from years past. [ARCHITECT ONE]

‘Mind-boggling’ preparation Hiring, training a big part of final push at Cyrus Hotel

T

By Morgan Chilson • morgan.chilson@cjonline.com

here has been a slow but powerful change in the downtown landscape as the Cyrus Hotel has risen to prominence at the northeast corner of 10th and S. Kansas Avenue. From groundbreaking in December 2016 to tear-down to the bright teal of the waterproofing seal that soon will be covered with the final veneer, Topekans have watched as the eight-story building moves toward completion. For those juggling every detail of the complex project, the excitement is escalating. See CYRUS, A16

The lobby, shown here in an artist’s rendering, at the Cyrus Hotel is designed to be a gathering place where people can feel comfortable no matter the reason they are at the hotel.

This rendering shows the design of a Cyrus Hotel room, with clean lines and simple elegance. [RENDERINGS SUBMITTED]

INSIDE DOWNTOWN

TI : ITS

N TOW

N DOW

S

S T EC

O T I2 CN E IO

OW

SN ME I

NO F2

T N4O 4O: F

e ay, Jun

Sund

O

E IS

IM TS T

N: I TOW 4 : E V E N I N G N DOW I O N 3 O F SE

RFO

RM

ING

ART

EN

TE

RT

A

18

17, 20

NOW

E INM

W S NO

C1

N TOW T I O N

N DOW

NT

ME I

TI : ITS

C SE

ET

4:

F 4 O

C.

CT

EN S C

TER

PE e h Av E. 8t rg 214 S. 2787 rts.o 4ess: inga Addr 85) 23 perform e: (7 Phon e: topeka sit Web

TOP

EKA

and eaters ure in in th os drive- g to its cl thein set of the the onsions, lead restore 0s, with televi Efforts to e mid-199 Parrish . 1976 gan in th d Nancy nating it an be ater kans Jim ter and do Jayhawk ric al Tope the thea Hth isto e mur ng fit ’s buyi nod nptorohave e city ras th the pe to am hotre Inc. ed 1940 where ci ll te r ea he etba en m, Th and AC op Auditoriu xing, baske and . She TP rk al bo stag g, icip ud Pa Mun wrestlin ok to the m closed Redb of s, op cuse ncerts to auditoriubecame re ckdr e e ba and cofloor. Th future Expocent for th ned its main , when e Kansas to the r desig 87 ande in 19 ain as th . Thanks king with r Bohl rt nnife unce ing built duals wor ograms, tist Je be divi grant pr Topeka as at ar in w th s of the ral mural effort and fede ened as in March -long ot state cility reopts Center d 60-fo h an the fa ming Ar the ot-hig TTED] MI ced by e 12-fo Perfor es fa of th 2018. [SUB AC n . ering 1991 rough tim e and TP wntow ne e tr A rend ed in Ju Th k Thea her do in the plet of ot d en aw com Jayh ed those struggle doors op ct refle sses that ep their malls on to ke busines-80s to igrated edges of k ar p m rn s a te 60 om g 19 wes umer nline.c ildin cons hern and bu e@cjo as m au of ut ive, nna.m e war idea the so ty. rspect and sava r t the ate on acknowle • e ci oric pe Carson in thei a Mau ter. L s abou or k on th at histhas made terminedty of vann r year O Art Cen o fanfare first mar d Th s, By Sa ore de viabili and rhap rd fo OT hn o an peawronski mment the k togetherr goal t her e hea the N pril, wit st pu hka Tatto ssG rts to ce and wor e broade s hav ti om ro A an ar fr d os effo venues ls ac d th ion. oopek the street the end of r at ner an of Matry ve mura towar at s ow posed thei others revitaliz physiss fi ight acro sines er, owner to paint it, pro ing withdowntown ed at the n, and youmada day n local bu ived 18 nd of ild e Ra u look ntow Thurs ohla in 20 eka, rece ts, a “If yo ut of dow from th tary the bu goal ifer B ng men Top from l layo everythi n Hall/Ro at the t edge ject. Jenn ade it her ca on ec n e ue ing issi utio m ro includ Constit art look as Aven n SCon perm tist, st the p ART Inn toand then n of Kans -betwee ceived d Park. ime ar ant with re in gt tio , rk n va awk en rs bu lo Pa reno th. Th d the Jayh eak r a gr irecto p for Red whole4th to 10 x lied fo The Br d of d ro AC an from got TP u’ve got black-bo, e app TO boar re backd h S of ve yo . t u’ O usic O yo tre, and es a lo and m d e futu NOT the N Thea , which docomedy nnant anit ea to ned th , Room r events ve The Pe ing up, . her id and desig en er theate en you haHotel op nski said ro own and th w Cyrus !” Gaw together D, B6 wow e things to do is e ne DBU th — RE es f es m uf See beco put all th all of st t people “To ctive m ce you ge a whole lle gs on in a co g. And n, it brin that was n excitindowntow wntow through y do g livin vibe to a Monda -5 -7 to 24 erly 8form .” Friday rk, ud tPa S] their dbos Rebo CTon say ITE ed rs ic os ARCH d Ca ainment prop om . [FALK ki an r theEcon tors enuerons e entert s, fo nera itect as AvGaw e liv omic ge buying Arch tiv Kans to lk ec N. on e ec addition out to of Fa resp and es ar Falk, . Gordon yan venu peka. In sidents go . Outby Br er of N.W r To local re r a show nd in fo ering rn , co nd s, te ke ts A re d at the ticke fore or af the wee at motel te ay loca s eat be ners st ng money nts. Mile Merl endi restaura uction of-tow and e d ka, sp er od artin as th /THE Tope stores an their pr buy groc h ar M ill serve MAUE nn A d il Gu NN w reta rmers an l rooms, s and was der, [SAVA hich hlan rict. e., w erfo buse t hote

move pares lity reO NrkOpT ea ud Pa ncept to r b d e R m co is expanding the Popular frodistrict o rks t , wo ision

sv fine tee re

s

und

f find

mit definitionComof the word “art,” Page B1

T

Bo

Av

ist

alM E N T E V E N I N G E N T E R TA e goI N

ering

n

an ows aza sh S] CT ty Pl Top Ci TK ARCHITE osed . [H e prop nature of th ts of ering emen A rend orates el rp inco

i, ronsk Gaw arry li’s and L e ro rby Ju d ors, e.com at nea opeka an re se jonlin direct t ee a ff of les@c T e d jbi ings n r co s • s boar k Th ntow eet fo any th n Bile Kansa larly m on of dow are so m re By Ja yhaw gu re of ti Theat here C, Ja awk Theat Center, re revitaliza TPA res. “T the Jayh s State e tu rt k th n aw gA on r ve rate e Jayh erformin hones in and othe sepa t of th blocks ture. ing eka P cally m ee iden pi op m hr T es ty ra fu , pr the sion prog said.T ing the arson rector of nski discus orate on eff C vision di heir awro utive Bistro. T uld collab ing,” G hen en tract to at exec L] do ge w ther URNA e and ues co e are vanta toge AL-JO CAPIT work Coffe e two ven — that w as an ad can /THE w, g LTON lo th en AD AL doin tre, be how ess se en d be Thea s say. [TH k ul os aw Jayh its leader we co AC — a cl and , e, es P ov os purp er, ab and T

rve as

mmun

a co

th ew of

ad vi

he over

Pla City Top

nker

ke Ra

By Lu

nk • lra

I

of nt 6 ts Ce a variety ing Ar for rform peka ka Pe town To Tope wn The to do ence audi

ES, C

ENU

a e plaz

for th

ffer.com y” di nline er@cjo and da -square ight ed e a “n turn tral, a cen s mad rking lotut ha a ho ould az it pa ns w zed pl ity, S.D., ntown. W ntow ing vitali st th id C r dow dow be , a re ei ap ’s e R z. n th th ri w y r .A A er to es sa ner, core by fa son, ti ti ft s ’s ci uc on t’ en ty T S “I th n e fr are. e ci in th s in bo d boring. ” said Dan treet Squ to th fe er li ce en lead g an new in City, ’s Main S thes place, n bustlin apid hoed in the brea ee ering e city s been ec wn R gath betw of th Plaza wnto open in limbo 20. City, to do ace ha Top City 20 id sp ed n ap as en , en remai happ tination R town op e idea y as soon ever it vagu wn es that’s EO of D ce in a do a. Once a l be a real C il n t and al plaz venue w nfide tr en co n id A d a ce sas pres gy an ers of d S. Kan ener back cupy That h an ly oc a from of 7t rrent Top r gs cu Topek st corner ildin nated fo e bu ea st sig Thre e de e northea as north th D11 e spac ns

See V

wntow e do

ill se

ch w

e, whi

n sit

io lizat

J

sign

e de

e. Th

plac

ETC. ing: venue r planinntdnext Plaza willlausher of a z 0 u ooen byphase P o 202 w e n op e downtown revitalization, Page D1 a b ing a expected to z Creat

s, on e u n e Twootheaters are anchoring v Tw evolution of life after 5 p.m., Page C1 ita n rev ntow dow le in

th ity ga

,

ING

ANN

See PL

th e Ka a at d S. ng for th Plaz City ki 7th an e er of oundbrea ke plac corn ta ue. Gr cted to r permits pe Aven athe is ex /THE LTON the we plaza on as . [THAD AL as so 19 rly 20 NAL] in ea UR AL-JO CAPIT

H J AY

AW

TRE HEA K T n St. ckso

. Ja 4295 720 S.W 85) 233- rg ess: (7 tre.o Addr Phone: thea hawk te: jay


A2  Sunday, June 17, 2018

‘We are witnesses to a remarkable transformation’ Positive feedback about downtown taking over past negativity By Sherman Smith sherman.smith@cjonline.com

People used to tell Vince Frye, president of Downtown Topeka Inc., that downtown Topeka was dead and any investment there was a waste of money. Now, those who haven’t visited the district in a few years tell him they don’t recognize the area. Pervasive negativity has given way to positive feedback. “We’re making progress,” Frye said. “It takes time. It takes money. But I think we’re moving at a pretty good pace.” After securing public and private investments in recent years, the focus is shifting. What should be the next step in downtown revitalization? Several downtown business owners offered their thoughts. Alicia VanWalleghem, Leaping Llamas Artisan Shop

Alicia VanWalleghem, Leaping Llamas Artisan Shop

plaza plan was announced. New restaurants with plans for breweries and other eateries are in the works. A hotel! What is the next step for downtown? I believe we need to start paying attention to the personality of area. We need more unique retail businesses and service-oriented businesses along the Avenue. I would like to more see partnerships with nonprofits, businesses and community members. More community art opportunities. For me, the answer to the quesWhen I opened Leaping tion “What is next?” is Llamas Artisan Shop another question — Who almost two years ago, is Topeka? The downthere was an excitement town revitalization is in a in the air. Retailers along unique position to either the Avenue were looking create it or enhance what forward to more foot and we already have. vehicle traffic. Topekans were still cautious but Bill Anderson, were coming out to be a Cashmere Popcorn part of the area. Today, we still have that exciteHow about like ment and are looking Legends Mall, they’ve forward to more! More got those little maps on activity. More engagethe corners that tell you ment. More fun. where each business is. The entertainment You can find just right

Bill Anderson, Cashmere Popcorn

Al Struttman, Moburts

Nick Xidis, Hazel Hill Chocolate

where you’re at, where the business is at, something like that. Another thing I’d like to see is how about maybe making some kind of incentive for these corporations to evacuate their ground level, as to allow other small businesses to occupy suites on that ground level, like in a lot of big cities — they have humongous towers, their ground level is retail. Maybe that would be a good deal. They’d have to make a sweet deal to these corporations, but, hey, if it’s going to bring more opportunity for people to have a business down here. You know these fancy little archways we’ve got right here? Westar puts some little lights on there at Christmastime. I’ve said why not put scrolling menus across those archways. As you’re waiting at a stoplight, you could read current events trending in Topeka, things that are happening in Topeka, and at the same time, I could pay to advertise my business across there,

and they could make money off that as well. Al Struttman, Moburts

history tours. There’s something going on downtown. What brings people downtown? We’ve got the pocket parks built. Let’s talk about them. Who are these guys? If we can get a group of people who want to come down and volunteer their time to do a 15- to 20-minute presentation, or if they want to be characters, we can make them as lively as we want. But it’s something fun to go do in the evening, and it builds Topeka pride. This is our city — let’s be proud of it. Nick Xidis, Hazel Hill Chocolate

We still need more businesses. You have to get more businesses down here — critical mass. Get it where there’s plenty of entertainment, things for people to do when they get downtown. We’re doing the right steps with some of the restaurants that are in here now, so that gives you some options in the evenings. (We need) more of the entertainment in the evening kind of stuff. Why aren’t we looking at our history and talking about it and be proud of it? Charles Curtis is amazing when you start looking at his history. But it’s not, like, in one central repository. You find little pockets of things and stuff. Getting that synergy, getting people active, getting them energized. We want in the summertime, Fridays and Saturdays, to have the

It’s probably been said enough times now that it’s a little cliché, but downtown is the heart and soul of any city. Thirteen years ago when we opened Hazel Hill Chocolate, downtown was like a patient on life support and the outlook was pretty bleak. Most folks thought the situation in downtown Topeka was hopeless and we were crazy to locate

a new business there. It wasn’t unusual to see only a couple of customers on a Saturday and those that came stopped, shopped and left as quickly as possible. It sure looks different today. Some muchneeded road refurbishing by the city and a whole lot of private funding has made Kansas Avenue a place where people want to spend time. There are statues, fountains and events almost every weekend. Some of these events are drawing tens of thousands of people. There are new residents (including us) on the avenue, too. It warms my heart to see the kids when the school bus stops on Kansas Avenue and neighbors out walking in the evenings. A new hotel and a crop of new restaurants are underway. It looks like the plaza will provide a much needed gathering place to keep people downtown after the meal is over. When people want to be downtown, it’s easy to be confident that the retail and office spaces will fill up too. Now there’s a sense of optimism and hope. Downtown truly is the heart and soul of our city, and Topeka’s is now full of life, and people want to be here. What we need now, more than anything, is for Topekans to be excited and grateful for the life and warmth that is growing downtown. It’s time to celebrate that we are witnesses to a remarkable transformation that’s happening right before our eyes.


Sunday, June 17, 2018  A3


A4  Sunday, June 17, 2018

Josiah Engstrom listens as Andrea Engstrom talks about the potential the couple sees in the industrial warehouse building they own at 100 S. Kansas Ave., which will house their three small businesses after renovations. The Engstroms and Earl Kemper, Andrea’s father, own Bajillion Agency, MotoVike Films and ActionCOACH. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

Businesses’ growth spurs relocation, renovation

Team aims to create professional space in old warehouse By Samantha Foster samantha.foster@cjonline.com

Andrea and Josiah Engstrom see wide-open potential in an industrial warehouse near the foot of the Kansas Avenue Bridge. The three small businesses — ActionCOACH, Bajillion Agency and MotoVike Films — are owned and operated by the couple and Earl Kemper, Andrea’s father, under the umbrella Premier Advisory Group. They are growing exponentially. The Engstroms expect their current team of 25 people to grow to 60 in five years, Andrea Engstrom said. The businesses are outgrowing their existing space at 3620 S.W. Fairlawn, Engstrom said, at such a rate that they knew they needed to make room for growth in a much bigger way. They found the answer downtown, at 100 S. Kansas Ave., and closed on the building in December. “We wanted to plan for something as big as we could dream, and that’s why this space at this time was important,” she said. The Engstroms have been working with Architect One on designs, and Andrea Engstrom said the firm is “masterful at incorporating a contemporary look at historic spaces.” Shirley Construction is the contractor for the project. The Engstroms hope to renovate the building and be able to move in early next year, and they said they are excited about the new space. “This building is so on trend with where other markets are going in terms of creating professional space out of industrial warehouses,

and Topeka hasn’t really caught on to that yet, but we will and we are,” Andrea Engstrom said. The building’s bones will stay, Engstrom said, with high ceilings, exposed beams and brick, and polished concrete floors contributing to clean lines and an industrial vibe. The couple felt an emotional connection to the space, as did team members they brought to view it. “Having a space that inspires is really important to us, because we have a creative team,” Engstrom said. “So a space that makes them feel energized and gives them good things to be in their environment for creativity was really important, and we knew that this space would do that.” The three businesses plan to lease the first floor and locate on the second floor, where large windows let in light. An industrial elevator will make it easy to haul MotoVike Film’s gear and props. “It has a lot of possibilities for shoots here, with that elevator and this space,” Josiah Engstrom said. The building’s location also was important to the culture the Engstroms want to build. Josiah Engstrom, who enjoys cycling, hopes to be designated as a bikefriendly employer. A Topeka Metro bus stop is located nearby, giving employees easy access to public transportation. And as downtown residents themselves — the Engstroms moved their family into a loft about two years ago — they want to be “walkable,” they said. Michael Wilson, previous coowner of 100 S. Kansas Ave., also owns 101 N. Kansas Ave., located across the street diagonally. His

A rendering completed by Architect One shows what the exterior of 100 S. Kansas Ave. will look like after renovations. [SUBMITTED/ARCHITECT ONE]

plans to convert that building into 33 loft-style apartments will help transform 1st and S. Kansas Avenue, currently a kind of “no man’s land” between downtown and the North Topeka Arts District, Andrea Engstrom said. “That corner is going to become part of the excitement that’s happening, and we’re going to connect NOTO to the downtown corridor,” she said. “We love the idea of having maybe someday employees that work here and live across the street and get to walk to work, and that seems like the kind of lifestyle that a lot of young professionals are looking for, and a sense of community and quality of place.” Planned infrastructure, such as the downtown plaza and riverfront development, also factored into the decision to relocate downtown. The plaza has great potential to drive business and activity downtown, Engstrom said. Some employees fish in a pond outside the businesses’ current offices during lunch, and it is only a short walk from nature sites. The new space at 100 S. Kansas Ave. is near the riverfront, which will give the creative team opportunities to go outside on break and be close to the water. Andrea Engstrom attributes the businesses’ growth partly to its affiliation with ActionCOACH, which seeks to help businesses grow. “We’re implementing a lot of the strategies that we’re telling our clients to implement, and it works,” she said. Much of their business coaching, marketing and advertising, and film production work has come

from local companies that need to recruit talent — “one of the large challenges of businesses in our community,” Engstrom said. “Companies are recognizing that in order to compete for great talent, they have to look like a cool place to work and have a great culture and tell their story well,” she said. “That is what we are best at, so we’re getting a lot of work in that area.” About 30 percent of their business comes from outside the state as much of their work is regional and national, Engstrom said. The way the couple runs Bajillion and MotoVike reflects their commitment to strategic growth. They want their employees to have a good work-life balance, so they set deadlines they feel make sense. Their different way of doing things carries over to their clients too. Rather than focus solely on a client’s advertising or brand development, Engstrom said, they “look at the big picture and ways that we can help them grow in creative ways.” “We hear from lots of our clients that say, ‘You guys are different, you do things differently,’” she said. Their goal is to have clients feature their customers and clients as the heroes of their stories, Engstrom said. “I think a lot of companies want to feature themselves as the hero, but when you feature your clients as the hero, everything else just works,” she said. “People want to be part of that.” Contact reporter Samantha Foster at (785) 295-1186 or @samfoster_ks on Twitter.

The future Premier Advisory Group office building at 100 S. Kansas Ave. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]


Sunday, June 17, 2018  A5


A6  Sunday, June 17, 2018

Historic elegance meets fine art: Stephen Smith Gallery brings flair Space features stone, concrete and white backgrounds, bringing variety to artists displaying their works By Morgan Chilson morgan.chilson@cjonline.com

As a downtown Topeka businessman who has been contributing to the city’s core since 1978, Stephen Smith is invested in the area’s revitalization. His wife, Edie Smith, has been a downtown cheerleader for years, working for Downtown Topeka Inc., serving on boards and generally championing its growth. After decades operating Stephen Smith Images at 931 S. Kansas Ave., the couple decided to convert much of their space to become the Stephen Smith Gallery, a fine art gallery. Although still shooting photos — Stephen Smith laughed and said, “We don’t want to give our age away, but we’ve been here for 40 years” — the two have been slowing down a bit in the photography studio. “We’ll still be able to do the photography, similar to what we’ve been doing, but we’re also not going to go after volume,” he said. “We’ll be a little more discerning with the kind of work we do.” In the interests of promoting and supporting the energy of what’s happening downtown and to bring another

Edie and Stephen Smith are excited to show their support for downtown Topeka’s revitalization through the new Stephen Smith Gallery. Located at 931 S. Kansas Ave., the gallery will feature four to five fine art exhibits annually. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

element to the scene, the two decided to create a unique gallery on the building’s first floor. “We’ll do four or five shows a year, featuring fine artists,” Stephen Smith said. “There are some people in the area that have never exhibited in Topeka. So our hope is to bring them in, and then to bringing some regional artists as well.” “It is the higher end, fine art,” Edie Smith said. In deciding to make the shift from full-time studio to gallery, Stephen and Edie Smith put their artistic eyes to the space. Already art lovers, they began to assess the galleries they visited to determine what needed to be done to make 931 S. Kansas Ave. a

top-notch artist venue. “We just put all new lighting in,” Edie Smith said, adding that it is the barn-door style lighting so the broadcast of light can be adjusted for each art piece. Built in the late 1880s, the building creates a varied canvas for hanging artwork. The Smiths began remodeling the building in 1992, even before they owned it. Stephen Smith opened his photography business in the building in 1978, with a clause in the lease that he would have right of first refusal to buy the building. Knowing that he intended to own it someday, he and Edie Smith undertook a major renovation in 1992.

The Stephen Smith Gallery Address: 931 S. Kansas Ave. Featuring • Through July: Brad LeDuc, Stephanie Munoz-O’Neil, Pat Abellon, Michael Mize and Cullen Swearingen • October/November: Stacey Utech, with Fused Glass, and Mike Weinbrecht, with Silver Point Art Website: stephensmithgallery.com

“There were a lot of small rooms in here,” Stephen Smith said. “We gutted it and discovered the tin ceiling, so we restored that. We put a new hardwood floor in because at one time there was a fire back there. When we took all the tile and carpet off, we discovered a big hole. It was in pretty bad shape.” They eventually purchased the building in

2006. The result of all their work is a beautiful space, with walls that offer stone, concrete and white backgrounds that will give variety to artists hanging their works. As part of the design, the Smiths made as much mobile as possible, so the area can be laid out in different configurations and artwork can be hung without putting nail holes in anything.

“The artists that we brought in here, about six or seven in here looking at the space, and they’re just excited because of all the different textures and variety,” Stephen Smith said. “We’re not small, but we’re not huge, so it’s intimate,” Edie Smith added. The space will accommodate 40 to 50 pieces of art, depending on the size and arrangement, Stephen Smith said. The two had their first artists in the space in May. The gallery is open to the public Thursdays through Saturdays, but with the option of setting up another time to view art as needed. When a new artist will be showing, the Smiths will hold an invitation-only opening and then feature the artwork for the next month or two. With their building sitting nearly across the street from where the Cyrus Hotel is being constructed and just down the street from The Pennant, Stephen Smith said he’s excited to bring a new element to the mix. “I think it’s a nice complement to everything going on,” said Edie Smith, adding that they hope to draw people who are visiting the Capitol for Saturday tours. “Particularly with the hotel bringing in their clientele, they’ll be looking for nice experiences,” Stephen Smith said. “We just feel like it’s a nice time to add to what’s happening down here.”


Sunday, June 17, 2018  A7

Vacant property near 9th and S. Kansas vital during development Spees: ‘This is the last chance to get downtown right in my lifetime’ By Phil Anderson phil.anderson@cjonline.com

Though he wouldn’t say it of himself, Topeka businessman Marvin Spees may be the true unsung hero of the city’s ongoing downtown redevelopment. Spees, owner of Capital City Oil, purchased five lots along the 900 block of S. Kansas Avenue several years ago. The lots, which made up the southeast corner of the block, included four buildings adjacent to each other. Spees concedes he didn’t exactly know what he was going to do with the property. Still doesn’t, for that matter. But it is what he has done with it in the past couple of years that has made all the difference in helping downtown developers make the first tangible leap into what the future could hold. After overcoming some opposition from local landmark preservation groups to salvage the existing buildings — which Spees maintains had little in the way of architectural significance and were in deplorable condition — the four buildings were torn down, leaving a large vacant lot at that location. Spees then allowed Cyrus Hotel developers to use the property as a kind of “staging area” for two years to house construction equipment and supplies. That generosity let the hotel be constructed with minimal disruption along the 900 block of S. Kansas Avenue. Rather than a large crane being placed in the middle of the street, ostensibly shutting down the block for weeks or months, only the sidewalk on the east side of the block was closed for any real length of time, allowing the hotel to go up and business

Marvin Spees, owner of Capital City Oil, allowed the use of property he owns in the 900 block of S. Kansas Avenue during construction of the Cyrus Hotel. Spees hopes to develop the property with businesses after the hotel opens later this year. [PHIL ANDERSON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

on the block to go on as usual. This meant businesses such as HHB BBQ, just north of the Cyrus Hotel, and Field of Greens across the street were able to stay open during the construction phase with customers able to drive and park on the block. And perhaps more importantly, it paved the way for the development of The Pennant, which opened in mid-March and has drawn consistently large crowds to the block nearly every day — and night — of the week. Simply put, it would be difficult to imagine existing businesses attracting customers to the extent they have, or The Pennant opening when it did, if the block had been closed for

any length of time. Spees downplays his involvement, saying only, “This is the last chance to get downtown right in my lifetime, and I didn’t want to do anything to mess it up.” By the end of the year, the Cyrus Hotel should be open for business and all the construction equipment and supplies moved out of the lots that Spees owns, turning the property into a large vacant lot. What will happen next? “I don’t know,” Spees said simply. “I’d like to see something go in there. Maybe a Starbucks or an Einstein’s bagel shop.” But nothing concrete at this

point, he added. One thing Spees does know: “I don’t want to run a coffee shop.” He has been approached by developers who have ideas for the property. And more than one person has come to Spees wanting to take the land off his hands. No, he isn’t interested in selling. “The property,” he said with a wry grin, “isn’t going down in value.” Ideally, Spees said, he will find someone who can develop and manage some businesses on the property that will complement what is happening in downtown Topeka.

Vince Frye, president of Downtown Topeka Inc., said he is eagerly awaiting the next step at the Spees property. “Whatever it is,” Frye said, “it will be very significant.” When all is said and done, Spees’ contributions during the construction of the Cyrus Hotel won’t be visible to the vast majority of downtown visitors, who will see a gleaming building and new shops and restaurants in the 900 block of S. Kansas Avenue. But to those who know the behind-the-scenes workings of what has gone on these past few years, Spees’ contributions can’t be overstated. And they won’t be forgotten.


A8  Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sunday, June 17, 2018  A9

BEHIND THE SCENES

‘Amazing team of true professionals’ making Cyrus Hotel a reality From idea to construction, collaboration has been key By Phil Anderson phil.anderson@cjonline.com

For a project the size and scope of downtown Topeka’s Cyrus Hotel to come off, many things had to fall into place. The timing also had to be right. And, perhaps most importantly, a group of people had to be ready and willing to make it happen — and to take it from an idea, to the drawing board, to a $25 million, eight-story reality whose name honors Cyrus K. Holliday, the founder of Topeka. Here is a look at eight of the many faces behind the Cyrus Hotel who played various roles to in making the project happen.

Cody Foster Cody Foster, founder and owner of AIM Strategies LLC, which is developing the hotel, said he expects big things from the project taking shape on the east side of the 900 block of S. Kansas Avenue. It is expected

to open in November. “The goal is for it to be an anchor for downtown today and long into the future,” Foster said. “It will be a destination downtown with events, a showpiece for out-of-town visitors and offer an amazing restaurant to the city.” Foster said he was grateful for the people who have collaborated on the project. “I guess it was initially my idea, and I’ve worked to be the driving force behind pulling the right team together,” Foster said. “We’ve got an amazing team of true professionals put together to make sure this is a huge success.”

decades,” Name pointed to the group of successful business people behind the project — individuals “who are committed to the rebirth and reactivation” of downtown Topeka. The Cyrus is part of the Aparium Hotel Group, which has other unique offerings in such cities as Milwaukee, New Orleans, Minneapolis and Denver. In addition to offering the top accommodations, food and beverage outlets and event venues in the market, Name said, “We like to think of Aparium hotels as gathering places where both transient visitors and locals mix and mingle. We hope the Cyrus will be the perfect setting where these enriching encounters will happen continuously, aided by the dedicated service and one-of-a-kind design of the hotel.”

JC Name JC Name, director of technical services and standards for Chicago-based Aparium Hotel Group, said the Cyrus will have much to offer the capital city. Calling the Cyrus the “first upper-upscale hotel to be built in downtown Topeka in

Michael Kitchen Michael Kitchen, vice president of acquisitions and

The Cyrus Hotel is a unique blend of historic buildings and modern architecture, as shown in this design rendering. [ARCHITECT ONE]

development for Aparium, said he is confident the Cyrus will help kick off more development in downtown Topeka. “Absolutely,” he said. “We foster and nurture strong collaborations with local suppliers, vendors and influencers, and we hope that the Cyrus will become a hub to showcase the best Topeka has to offer. “Our hotels work with the neighborhood and the community, and a ripple effect is something that happens almost naturally, due to the business model itself,” Kitchen said. Kitchen said he has been impressed with the passion and commitment of those associated with the Cyrus project. “While every single hotel is different, and so are the challenges and opportunities at each of them,” Kitchen said,

“the one constant I notice is the passion and dedication that owners have for their hometowns, and how they see the hotel as a keystone to the area. I see this everywhere we go. The owners’ vision is truly a work of love, one that is typically shared by the entire project’s team. In the particular case of the Cyrus, I see resilience, endurance and persistence. I am sure Mr. Holliday would smile and agree with what’s been done using his name.” Andrew Wiechen Andrew Wiechen, associate principal senior project manager with Topeka-based Architect One, said the Cyrus is strategically located to have a major impact on downtown Topeka, as it is located on S. Kansas Avenue. “The significance of the

Cyrus Hotel for downtown is the abundance of hotel guests, event attendees and restaurant patrons that will have an impact on the surrounding central business district during the evenings and weekends,” he said, “adding vibrancy that will bring Topekans and others from surrounding communities to downtown for an afternoon or evening out.” Wiechen said his involvement with the Cyrus Hotel project dates back more than two years to late 2015, when he first met with the hotel

team members to listen to their vision — not only for the hotel itself, but for what it would do for downtown. The Cyrus Hotel project has special meaning for him, as his family’s roots run deep in the downtown Topeka area. “As a child, my mother always told my brother and I stories of the shops and eateries downtown,” he said. “Her stories were about the energy that was downtown. If you wanted to socialize and catch up with people, Kansas Avenue was the place to be. These stories left a lasting impression on me, and I began to dream that downtown could be that place of energy and vibrancy once again.” Jeff Pavone Jeff Pavone, general manager of the Cyrus, said the hotel “really complements the hard work that has been done

to make downtown Topeka a vibrant destination for the community and guests.” “It’s a large financial investment into the community, and that really speaks to the vision of leadership, that downtown is a great place for business and it is a wonderful locale to show our guests and visitors,” he said. Pavone said his hope is that the Cyrus becomes a gathering place for the community, “a place where memories are made. It might be as simple as grabbing a cup of coffee or enjoying a fantastic meal at our sensational restaurant or maybe it’s where your daughter gets married. It’s my goal that the Cyrus provides an intimate setting for the city and its guests to make memories for a lifetime.”

traffic and leading to new business, the Cyrus also will draw people from outside Topeka, Wells said, and, as a result, “our sales-tax base will increase.” Wells said U.S. Bank is providing construction and permanent financing on the Cyrus. She added: “This project is one of the most rewarding projects I have been associated with in my 30-plus years of banking. I love Topeka. Two of my children live in New York. I want them to live in Topeka. This project has their attention. Some of their friends that live in Lawrence are talking about moving their businesses to Topeka because ‘It is a friendly place to do business and live.’”

Pat Tolin

Julie Purpura

Wendy A. Wells Wendy A. Wells, regional commercial banking manager and Topeka market president for U.S. Bank, said the Cyrus will be a drawing card that will attract people back to downtown. “The Cyrus Hotel in downtown Topeka is an anchor for driving retail business,” Wells said. In addition to increasing foot

is based on Cyrus Holliday’s journey from Pennsylvania to the Sunflower State and the hardships he and his family experienced while establishing the town of Topeka in the free state of Kansas. “Our design of the interior is a modern take on Federalism. Our design draws on Civil War military motifs and natural cues from the prairie to create rich, warm spaces that are both brawny and graceful.”

Julie Purpura, owner of Chicago-based Avenir Creative, said the Cyrus project is helping put Topeka on the map as a city on the move. “I think the significance of the Cyrus Hotel is to show the world that Topeka is a really cool city and a huge contributing factor in the progress of the American West,” Purpura said. “We’re creating a space that will house a generation of new explorers and travelers with an interior environment that celebrates the history of the area.” In explaining her work on the project, Purpura said, “We are the interior designers and have been working with the team to design the overall look and feel of the interior of the hotel. Our overall design concept

Pat Tolin, project manager with McPherson Construction, said he was hopeful the project “will help to make downtown Topeka one of the most recognizable downtown areas in the Midwest, and a place people want to live and visit. This helps everyone who lives and operates a business here.” Tolin said McPherson Construction is an “expert contractor in this highly niche sector of historic building and renovation and fully understands the critical nuances required during planning and construction.” Working to build the vision for the Cyrus, he added, has been “a truly rewarding experience.” “We have a solid team and take a lot of pride in our work and in the partnerships we’ve built with the design team and owners,” Tolin said, “delivering positive solutions and seeing the progress of those efforts is best part of our job.”


A10  Sunday, June 17, 2018

Brew Bank aims to be ‘an eclectic scene’ Top Tank winner going for mix of modern, industrial styles By Luke Ranker luke.ranker@cjonline.com

It's Friday after work, and you want a beer — specifically a Kansas beer, but you aren't sure which one. Dusty and Melissa Snethen and Ryan Cavanaugh, of Brew Bank, the Top Tank winner that brought home $100,000, have the answer: 25 selfserving beer taps with suds from the Sunflower State. "If you're looking for Kansas beer, even if it's far away, we'll have it," Dusty Snethen said. The trio came up with the idea for a Kansasthemed bar over beers. Even with a burgeoning brew scene in Kansas, the group found it difficult to find beers from across the state. Using a digital tap system — which allows a customer to use a plastic card much like a debit card to buy beer from the tap — offered a novel way to serve beer that might help attract customers. At least five other selfserve taps will feature high-end wine, and Dusty Snethen said they plan to host a beer competition pitting Kansas beers against brews from Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri or elsewhere. Though construction hasn't started, artist's renderings show a mix of modern and industrial styles with digital menu screens and taps along with exposed duct work and stone walls. Two sets of taps will be on each wall to prevent crowd

congestion. A Germanstyle long bar will offer full service, and lounge-style couches aim to have plenty of seating. Along one wall, a large screen will loop B horror movies and trailers. "It'll be really inviting and not pretentious," Cavanaugh said. Making the Brew Bank a reality took more than just winning Top Tank. Until earlier this year, self-serve beer taps were illegal, even though wine taps were OK'd last year. In May, Gov. Jeff Colyer signed a bill in front of Brew Bank's proposed location in the 800 block of S. Kansas Ave. that allows the taps, as well as the sale of alcoholic beverages earlier in the morning and marketing of liquorinfused food products. Had the law not passed, Dusty Snethen said, the Brew Bank would have opened as a Kansasthemed bar with more bartenders. Brew Bank will have more than just booze, too. A small stage will host jazz, blues, comedy and poetry nights. The group also has kicked around ideas for small events, like a competition to have a patron's city parking ticket paid, or a "celebrity wake" that honors famous actors or musicians on the anniversary of their death. "It's going to be an eclectic scene," Dusty Snethen said. The hope is Brew Bank draws folks from around town to the downtown, Melissa Snethen said. "We want to show it's cool down here," she said. "We want to be a place you can hang out and meet someone new."

From left, Ryan Cavanaugh, Melissa Snethen and Dusty Snethen, of Brew Bank, plan to feature 25 self-serving beer taps with suds from the Sunflower State. [CHRIS NEAL/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

An artist’s rendering of the Brew Bank shows lots of lighting, exposed stone walls and a long bar. [SCHWERDT DESIGN GROUP]


Sunday, June 17, 2018  A11

G’s Cheesecakes and More owner eager to debut tasty treats, meals Positivity and a love of sugar keep George Kearse ready to make a difference By Luke Ranker luke.ranker@cjonline.com

George Kearse has a bit of a sweet tooth, and he’ll admit it. He’s the man behind G’s Cheesecakes and More, the Top Tank second-place winner who brought home $50,000. At a recent meeting in downtown Topeka, Kearse ordered a large hot chocolate topped with whipped cream. The giant cup of cocoa fits his personality — energetic and positive. That’s what he hopes to bring to downtown Topeka. “I’m in a position to do what I love, and that makes a difference,” he said. Kearse, who has worked in several Topeka restaurants, including as sous chef at Top of the Tower and sous chef, pastry chef and interim executive chef at Shawnee Country Club, has an arsenal of more than a dozen cheesecake recipes and plenty of other sweet treats. “I know my product rivals anything in Kansas City,” he said. Kearse had gone back and forth on some open properties in downtown. A space off S.W. 8th and Jackson offered a view of the Statehouse, as well as a blank exterior wall he wanted to have painted with a mural. A space in the 600 block

George Kearse, Top Tank second-place winner and owner of G’s Cheesecakes and More, plans to lease a space in the 600 block of S. Kansas Ave. for his business. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

of S. Kansas Avenue, however, caught his eye. The location is almost directly across the street from the site of the planned Top City Plaza and has large windows. “I don’t get excited about much, but this I’ve got a vision for,” he said.

He plans to lease the space and anticipates most of the $50,000, plus a little of his own investment, will go toward rehabilitating the building. Kearse has owned a catering business for more than a decade and briefly ran a downtown pie shop

in the 1990s, so he doesn’t expect to spend much on equipment. “It’s not going to take much for us to get up and running,” he said. It’s not all going to be sweets — don’t forget the “More” part of G’s Cheesecakes and More.

The shop will open for breakfast and serve biscuits and gravy, as well as a variety of omelets. At lunch, Kearse plans to “bring back the openfaced sandwich” with classics like roast beef, turkey or chicken over mashed potatoes. He also

plans to offer barbecued beef and pulled pork. Kearse’s goal with breakfast and lunch is quality and speed. “It’s something hearty, but we can get them out quick,” he said. “We don’t want people waiting around.”


A12  Sunday, June 17, 2018


Sunday, June 17, 2018  A13

Designed Business Interiors turning sights on its own downtown space Owner: ‘The main thing is to bring more light into the building’ By Morgan Chilson morgan.chilson@cjonline.com

A longtime Topeka business that helps other companies increase efficiency and create beautiful workspaces is in the midst of redesigning its own office. Designed Business Interiors has relocated to the second floor of its building at 107 S.W. 6th Ave., which is owned by AIM Strategies Inc. The first floor faces a massive remodel, but with all the projects AIM is tackling — including the Cyrus Hotel and Iron Rail Brewing — DBI owner Kevin Sutcliffe said he is content to wait his turn. The second-floor offices are more than adequate for their needs, and warehouse space that DBI had on the first floor has been permanently relocated offsite, he said. But standing in the midst of a gutted first floor, Sutcliffe and Lana Miller, a senior designer at the firm, clearly are excited about the potential the area holds for DBI. They will locate in about 3,500 square feet on the east side of the building, which leaves significant area available for lease when the remodel completed. The rest of that first floor had been DBI’s warehouse and storage areas. The building’s total square footage, according to records from the Shawnee County Appraiser’s Office, is just under 20,000 square feet, which includes 3,000 square feet in a basement area.

Kevin Sutcliffe, owner of Designed Business Interiors, and Lana Miller, senior designer, explore the space that will house the business after a major remodel at 107 S.W. 6th Ave. DBI has moved temporarily to the second floor in the building during the remodel. [PHOTOS BY THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

Designed Business Interiors, 107 S.W. 6th Ave., has moved to the building’s second floor while an extensive remodel is taking place.

It was built in 1925 but took until 1928 to be finished, Sutcliffe said, adding that he thinks the stock market had something to do with the delay. Also, the building was intended to be 10 stories tall and be home to the Jane C. Stormont School of Nursing. Instead, it is two stories. The building will be an amazing space when it is completed, featuring the

assets of many old buildings downtown, such as high ceilings and exposed brick. “The main thing is to bring more light into the building,” Sutcliffe said of what he hopes for the office area. “It was very dark. The showroom faces north, so it doesn’t get a lot of light.” The building originally had three windows that faced the alley, and he would love to see at least one of those

reopened. The grading in the building is also distinctive and will have to be aligned somehow. There are sloping areas, and in one space, the floor didn’t line up with the doors by about two or three feet. It’s exciting to look at designing their own space, Sutcliffe said. DBI specializes in commercial office furniture, with about 85 percent of its business coming from the state of Kansas, including the University of Kansas, Washburn University and Kansas State University. Furniture products haven’t changed significantly over the years, Sutcliffe said, so his business works to differentiate itself from competitors. “All of our competitors have kind of the same thing, so you have to differentiate yourself,” he said. “We try to do that with the right brand, which is Herman

Miller, the right designs, and, of course, the service beyond that. My story isn’t any different than if you talk to a bank. We’re all competing for the same jobs for the most part.” Office design has changed in some spaces, though Sutcliffe said he has seen few changes among most of the government entities. The universities are looking at some of the modern approaches with different types of seating or small cozy conference areas. “Herman Miller calls it a living office,” Sutcliffe said. “People work differently today than they did just even five years ago, so there’s more collaboration. Walls went up, and then walls came down.” In DBI’s temporary second-floor space, Sutcliffe said he can sit at his desk and talk in a normal tone of voice to a designer, and many today want that collaboration and ability to communicate with each other. “The only thing that is required in a space is privacy, and then they do that in really unique ways now, so there’s not typically the big boardroom tables with all the chairs sitting around it,” he said. “There are little break-out rooms everywhere. The bigger the business, the more breakout rooms.” Putting together a new space for DBI will be an opportunity to use all of the knowledge in his own office. Miller, who has worked at DBI for 19 years, said she loves that part of the work. “I like the puzzle-solving, trying to create new spaces for people,” she said.

Architect building on history with renovation of former plant Old Seymour food processing facility to be converted into 33 two-bedroom units

a National Parks Service tax credit requirement.” The construction is expected to be “substantially complete” by the end By Angela Deines of December so residents can angela.deines@cjonline.com move in Jan. 1, Wilson said. He said applications for the lofts Mike Wilson bought 101 N. will be accepted this summer. Kansas Ave. about two and Preserving the building a half years ago to transform is particularly important the former Seymour food to Wilson, given that his processing facility into 33 father worked his summers two-bedin college at Seymour Foods room living Inc., and his grandmother units that worked at the company her will be called entire professional career. The Kansas As a young architect, Wilson Avenue Lofts. said, one of the first projects “We’ve he designed more than 30 combined Wilson years ago was a new building taking an old for Seymour. building and making a difRenovating the building ference for the community,” with that much personal and Wilson said of the nearly $5 professional history is a point million project he describes of pride and privilege, he said. as “more expensive than “As an architect I’m very original construction.” fortunate that there is visual, “This building is just a physical evidence of my perfect dovetailing of the work,” Wilson said. “My particular interests and skills career and my ego are pleased we have,” he said. “Then I there’s going to be a little was able to find good people bit of something more left who supported me and of myself after I’m gone and wanted to be part of it also.” I’m not the only one who gets Other partners in the credit. Everybody that works project include Wilson’s for me — the engineers, the wife, Maria, as well as Patti masons, the general contracMellard, Mike Tindell, Nathan tors, the plumbers. They all Tindell and Keith Sowards. deserve equal credit. They The building’s stucco and can all drive by and tell their windows are being replaced, grandchildren (about the Wilson said. The exterior building).” will be painted a brick color, As much as he appreciand the masonry on the ates the historical aspects of west side of the building will downtown Topeka, Wilson be tuck-pointed. Framing said he is equally as proud on the interior units also to be part of the resurgence began late in the spring, he of the area, having moved said, along with work on the his architectural company, parking garage on the lower Architect One, to downtown two floors. about five years ago. What will remain, Wilson “I love it down here,” he said, is the building’s said. “It’s one of the greatest Nashville stone. decisions I’ve ever made was “That is in order to moving our firm down here. achieve our time frame of We were part of the early being done by the end of the movement of the ball to get year,” he said, “which is also it rolling.”

Work continues on 101 N. Kansas Ave., the former Seymour food processing facility that Topeka architect Mike Wilson and several partners are renovating into 33 two-bedroom lofts set to open in January. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

Mike Wilson, owner of 101 N. Kansas Ave., says the building he dubbed one of the ugliest in Topeka will be transformed into an attractive space that will be home to 33 lofts. [SUBMITTED RENDERING]


A14  Sunday, June 17, 2018

Randy and Debra Clayton have renovated most of 720 S. Kansas Ave. into residential lofts to meet the growing demand for downtown living. [PHOTOS BY THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

A fire in January 2015 had gutted 720 S. Kansas Ave., which once housed the HHB BBQ restaurant that is now at 906 S. Kansas Ave.

Downtown residential living a business for couple Debra and Randy Clayton: ‘We need more development going on’ By Angela Deines angela.deines@cjonline.com

While residential living in downtown Topeka is steadily rising in popularity, the business side of building and leasing new loft space isn’t as lucrative as it would be in the commercial realm. “It was the demand for loft space that got us where we are now,” said Debra Clayton, owner of Clayton Wealth Partners with her husband, Randy Clayton. Nonetheless, the Claytons opted to take the plunge into creating lofts to fill the growing demand that includes a

waiting list. They have four lofts, ranging from 770 to 2,200 square feet, in their building at 720 S. Kansas Ave., a space left after a fire gutted the former HHB BBQ restaurant in January 2015. Debra Clayton said the people who are inquiring about their lofts are middle- to retirement age and “are done with the house and the garden and the yard.” “Now they’re wanting to enjoy a more urban environment where they don’t have those responsibilities,” she said. “They can leave whenever they want to travel. Some of them work downtown, so they like the idea of being able to walk to and from work. Downtown lofts are very popular, and it

will be good to get more of those.” One of the secondstory lofts the Claytons completed this past spring has a full view of Kansas Avenue with a wall of windows that can open to take in the atmosphere of whatever is going on downtown, whether it’s a parade, festival or other community events. The Claytons said being part of the renovations and resurgence of the downtown for the past 10 years, first with their financial advising firm and now the lofts, has been exciting and something they don’t regret. “I’m an eternal optimist,” Randy Clayton added. “I don’t have a doubt that downtown’s going to work. The

momentum’s gone too far.” “How long it’s going to take and what the pieces are going to be,” added Debra Clayton, “some of that has yet to be developed.” Not being people who want to wait for others to get the ball rolling, Debra Clayton said she and Randy charged ahead with their plans to renovate the space. “It really mattered to us that there was new life for downtown,” she said. “It’s exciting, but there are challenges for anyone who takes on projects like these. To a certain extent, it’s been a ‘build it and they will come’ — but not always.” At the same time, however, not being the only business people who are

putting their energy and resources into downtown also has been motivating and reaffirming, Debra Clayton said. “That’s what has kept the momentum going,” she said. “We need more development going on. There are large sums of money that need to go into some of these buildings to get them up to a point where that exciting new business or restaurant can go.” The Claytons, who have framed photos of downtown Topeka’s past hanging in their offices, said they don’t want to hearken back to yesteryear — they want to be part of what downtown is becoming. “You have to reimagine (downtown),” Debra Clayton said. “It’s a

different decade, it’s a different millennium. It won’t be the same. We don’t want it to be the same. We want it to be new and vital for us.” Developing the Kansas River riverfront, bringing downtown and NOTO together, and the downtown plaza are examples of progress Debra Clayton said weren’t planned decades ago but are ones she and Randy support and want to see move forward. “For those of us who are impatient with processes, it’s hard,” she said. “But it is a process, and it’s going to be wonderful. For everyone who lives downtown or comes downtown, they will thoroughly enjoy what’s happening and will be part of it.”


Sunday, June 17, 2018  A15

Business owners look out of town to draw customers Destination Bootcamp gives Topeka professionals ideas to grow, prosper

Kymm Ledbetter, owner of Prairie Glass Studio, said she has to decide if she should market outside Topeka, such as in the Kansas City area, Lawrence or St. Louis. Ledbetter said she also realized that her store, tucked into its lower-level S.E. 8th Street location, needs more curb appeal to draw visitors from S. Kansas Avenue.

By Morgan Chilson morgan. chilson@cjonline.com

A day trip is a fun way to escape for a mini-vacation, and Topeka businesses are exploring ways to market their stores as destinations for those customers on a getaway. Creating a destination business means looking at marketing from a different angle, seeking that special something that will draw people from out of town to visit local establishments. Recently, as part of a Shawnee Startups initiative, area business owners — three from downtown Topeka — traveled to Colorado to explore what they can do to make destination marketing part of their promotional focus. Local professionals with Moburts, Cashmere Popcorn, Prairie Glass Studio, Premier Farm & Home, Glacier's Edge Winery, Tradepost Entertainment and a community representative spent a little more than two days in Colorado at Destination Business Bootcamp. Angie Anderson, coowner of Cashmere Popcorn, said the education provided by marketing expert Jon Schallert at the boot camp pushed her to think outside of what she usually does. "One of the things that really struck me is that as a small business, we do get wrapped up in that hamster wheel," she said. "Stepping outside of the wheel is very important for business growth. What it made me and my husband do was it made us slow down, literally focus together on what our goals were for Cashmere Popcorn

[THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

and then write them down." Anderson, who called the event one of the best she's attended as a business owner, said creating a destination marketing plan begins with looking to the region for customers, rather than just Topeka. She received some validation on steps Cashmere already takes, including offering free flavor samples to customers, which develops relationships and creates lifelong customers. But the presentation also got her thinking about collaboration among small businesses to help pay advertising costs and create a community to pull in outof-town visitors. "I absolutely believe that the cross-marketing and cross-promotion is what's going to make the downtown a destination point once again," she said. Kymm Ledbetter, owner of Prairie Glass Studio, said it was eye-opening for her to learn that people will drive 45

Online Learn how Phillips County in northwest Kansas has successfully used destination marketing to revitalize downtown Phillipsburg. CJOnline.com

minutes to more than an hour to buy or look at something in another community because they think anything is better than what is found locally. "That was really disconcerting, eye-opening," she said. "Most people don't think their own city has anything grand." With that in mind, Ledbetter said she has to decide if she should market outside Topeka, such as in the Kansas City area, Lawrence or St. Louis. She also realized that her store, tucked into its lowerlevel S.E. 8th Street location, needs more curb appeal to draw visitors off S. Kansas Avenue.

"You can't really see us," she said. "If I was in another city, I'd do the same thing — look down that street to see if there's anything down there. If there doesn't look like there's something, I won't walk down there." Ledbetter said she is interested in creating some kind of rack card that could be put out that would direct people to all the businesses downtown. "If people are in here and they've never been downtown, (I say) 'Oh, have you gotten your chocolate yet at Hazel Hill,'" she said, adding that the businesses need to work together to support each other. "Building that respect and rapport of wanting to work together is still a goal of mine." Moburts owner Al Struttman said the boot camp was enlightening, pushing him to think about what he can do better. Drawing people from out of town is important for growth. But he, like Ledbetter, faces the challenge of where to spend marketing money. "Do you market to folks that are outside of your local area? Most of us don’t," he said. "What’s unique about your store. Your unique selling proposition, and what makes you different than everybody else. You know it, but how do you portray it to everybody?" Extending a marketing strategy can be an expensive proposition, Struttman said. Schallert talked about crossmarketing and businesses working together. The trip, Struttman said, allowed the Topeka business attendees to get to know each other but also meet other Kansas companies and even consider ways that different communities could market together.

Mike Steinert, co-owner of Glacier's Edge Winery, is considerably far from the downtown area, and being located out in the country means his business has to be a destination. Being around the other business owners and listening to Schallert was helpful in thinking differently about his business. "His premise was anybody can be a destination business if you market yourself the right way, if you have the right products," he said. "We can draw unique distinctions, and then play on that. The things that I'm kicking around doing are things I've been wanting to do — more landscaping, marketing more the whole art concept that we're wanting to do to be another place for folks to come out and show their art." Steinert also said his business will tackle more social networking, working to target specific demographics and expanding beyond his current strong Facebook presence to hit other media, such as Twitter and Instagram. All the business owners returned with ideas floating around in their heads and determination to find time to make changes. Anderson said she came back recharged. "(Schallert) restored my hope, and he's restored my courage," she said. "It's a very discouraging world at times when you're running your own business because you're really it. If you fail, it was your fault. It was good to hear the stories — there were 25 people in our class, so there was a lot of collaboration as far, 'This worked for me, this didn't work for me.' "It was very, very informative to have such a wide variety of merchants/companies there."


A16  Sunday, June 17, 2018

CYRUS Continued from A1

“The schedule of completion is still early December right now,” said Seth Wagoner, CEO and CFO of AIM Strategies, the hotel developer. “Everything’s going smoothly. I’m still tremendously excited about the project.” In the past months, AIM brought on board a new hotel management company, Chicago-based Aparium Hotel Group, to replace Salt Hotels, which had begun the project. That shift, which occurred because of contractual issues, caused a few challenges, Wagoner said. For instance, Salt designers had laid out a plan for the hotel’s interior, and Aparium had to step in to change the design. “Aparium’s delivering much more of a Topekabased design, much more of a Federalist look, much more of embracing the history of Topeka,” he said. “Luckily, Aparium basically accepted the core structure as it was, and then we’ve worked with the interior design. It’s been in chunks all the way — ‘OK, what do we need to change on the seventh and eighth floors?’ “ That means looking at what was bid out in the beginning of the process but then making changes and making that work. “Has it been the easiest process? No. But it’s been a really positive process because I see very positive Topeka-related changes coming into it,” Wagoner said. Wagoner said he and AIM owner Cody Foster had Aparium at the top of their short list when they first considered hotel management teams, so they ended

Construction continues at a rapid pace as the Cyrus Hotel continues toward its scheduled November opening. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

up “right where we wanted to be.” “They’re headquartered in Chicago, but most of their properties are in places like Milwaukee; La Crosse, Wis.; Minneapolis,” he said, adding that Aparium is opening a hotel in Kansas City three months before the Cyrus. “They’re very much known for their food and beverages. What they’re doing from a food-and-beverage perspective is really going to be something very, very unique to Topeka.” Wagoner said he likes that in other Aparium hotels and restaurants, the company meets the needs for diverse customers. “You have the people that are coming from church dressed to the nines eating there. You also have the

people that are really hungover eating there, but you also have a bar full of Green Bay Packers fans getting fired up for the game,” he said. “That’s a really hard dynamic to put together, but I think they always do it very, very well.” Foster said he’s looking forward to the Cyrus opening to see the hotel take on an important role for the downtown area. It is one of multiple projects his company is working on and which included the recent opening of The Pennant, 915 S. Kansas Ave. “As wildly successful as The Pennant has been so far, I think the bigger anchor for downtown will be the Cyrus,” he said. “People come to The Pennant to eat, and hopefully, they also go

eat at other places downtown, and shop at Moburts, or Hazel Hill, or Cashmere or the other places down here. But with the Cyrus, we’ll be keeping people downtown longer. We’ll also be driving people downtown for events, from galas to wedding receptions to business meetings. I truly believe people are going to be blown away when they see the finished product.” Wagoner said he is impressed by the layers of planning that go into a hotel opening, and the last 90 days will be intense. “In the final 90 days, everything that goes into that, it’s almost mind-boggling at some levels to think of all the preparation that they have to go through,” he said.

Securing a workforce to open the hotel may present some challenges in a labor market that’s sitting below 4 percent unemployment. “At The Pennant, we’ve done better than we even anticipated,” Wagoner said. “We’ve had to almost increase our workforce by 150 percent versus what our model said. Now that we’re doing it again with the hotel, and now we’re doing it again with The Iron Rail ... don’t get me wrong, there’s some great people out here in Topeka, but finding people in that $9 to $13 an hour range is not as easy as people think. It’s quite hard.” Foster said that he believes doing multiple projects at once will help the hiring process. “We learned a lot from opening The Pennant — specifically that there was going to be even more demand than we anticipated,” he said. “That volume creates challenges. Our team has been so slammed we haven’t been able to train as much as we need or want to. I think we’ll see similar demand from the Cyrus. In fact, Aparium, the group operating the Cyrus, said they’ve received more inquiries about booking events in Topeka than any of their other properties across the country. “They are blown away so far by the excitement and demand. Knowing what we know, we’ll hire a little earlier and spend more time training before we open.” As the opening approaches, Wagoner said, a series of pre-opening VIP events will be planned in celebration. “I always tell people, yeah, we’re doing a lot of stuff downtown, but the hotel is really the crown jewel of what we’re doing,” he said. “We’re not going to let Topeka down.”


Sunday, June 17, 2018  B1

DOWNTOWN: ITS TIME IS NOW CN T I2 ON S E CS TE IO O F2 4O: F N4O T O

A rendering of the 12-foot-high and 60-foot-long mural that artist Jennifer Bohlander designed for the backdrop of Redbud Park. She and her team hoped to have the mural completed in June 2018. [SUBMITTED]

Redbud Park prepares move from concept to reality Committee refines vision, works to find funds

T

By Savanna Maue • savanna.maue@cjonline.com

oopekans have heard for years about the idea of building a park across the street from the NOTO Art Center. Late one warm Thursday night at the end of April, with no fanfare or acknowledgements, a local business owner and artist put her first mark on the project. Jennifer Bohlander, owner of Matryoshka Tattoo and longtime artist, made it her goal in 2018 to paint five murals across NOTO. She applied for a grant with ARTSConnect Topeka, received it, proposed her idea to the NOTO board of directors, received permission from the building owner and designed the future backdrop for Redbud Park. See REDBUD, B6

From left, DeAna Morrison, Jennifer Bohlander, Gunnar Martin and Merl Miles trace the outline of a mural on 842 N. Kansas Ave., which will serve as the backdrop for the future Redbud Park in the NOTO Arts District. [SAVANNA MAUE/THE

A rendering by Bryan Falk, of Falk Architects, for the proposed Redbud Park, located at the corner of N.W. Gordon and N. Kansas Avenue. [FALK ARCHITECTS]

CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

A rendering by Bryan Falk of Falk Architects for the proposed Redbud Park. Pictured is the storage shed in place in NOTO, which has been adapted as an entertainment venue with space for vendors. [FALK ARCHITECTS]

Bryan Falk, of Falk Architects, has worked since February with NOTO community members to conceptualize plans for Redbud Park, across the street from the NOTO Arts Center at the corner of N.W. Gordon Street and N. Kansas Avenue. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

A rendering by Bryan Falk, of Falk Architects, for the proposed Redbud Park. Pictured is the storage shed currently in place in NOTO, which has been adapted as an entertainment venue with space for vendors. To the right, a portion of Jennifer Bohlander’s mural is visible. [FALK ARCHITECTS]


B2  Sunday, June 17, 2018

Q&A with Thomas Underwood: Good, bad, what's to come Big goals, challenges ahead for arts district By Savanna Maue savanna.maue@cjonline.com

In October, Thomas Underwood, a North Topeka native, took on the role of executive director of the NOTO Arts District. He has many fond memories of visiting the shops in the 800 and 900 blocks of N. Kansas Avenue as a child. Over the past 10 years, Underwood has watched as a light sparked in the district, and he now is one of NOTO's greatest supporters and advocates. Underwood is constantly forming new plans and working to develop the district, and was able to shed a little light on his new role, as well as what's in store for the community, in an interview with The Topeka Capital-Journal that has been edited for length and clarity. We spoke about six months ago when you were starting as the executive director. Has the job been what you expected?

Has the job been what I expected? I would say and more so. I feel like we have the potential to affect change in this community, in this district. I see that every day in little ways, of people coming together and trying to make things better. That sounds corny, but I really do see people pulling together. I think it is exciting to see NOTO on the cusp, there's excitement and enthusiasm and I think it’s the recognition that's really exciting — that things are happening down here. So that’s the good. However, nothing ever happens as quickly as you want it to. And I don’t mean this is a negative way toward anyone, but whether it's time delays to schedule meetings, delays in getting bids, delays in grant applications, those kinds of things have made it feel like six months have flown by.

What has it been like to unite the various goals of the merchants and the visitors and the board?

I don’t know if I would use the word unite. That seems kind of strong. I strive for a positive alliance. One of the things I see as a challenge is not everybody has the same business needs, the same business models. We can’t assume everyone’s the same, but I think they’re united in that everybody wants to see NOTO do well, but they might have a different determination about what does doing well mean. I’ve tried to really focus on the commonality, what do we have in common. And again the guys running a plumbing shop or electrician or glass shop or whatever, their business model is going to be really different from someone who runs an art studio. There’s a difference, let’s not assume they’re all in fullalignment, and that’s OK. It’s all about accepting the different businesses and where they’re at, and how they feel fit to strive for the best.

We talked about parking and public facilities way back when. Have there been any steps made toward improving those goals?

So there was a parking study done by the city, and I think the study probably told us what we already know. We have a parking problem one day a month. And it’s probably not feasible or

Thomas Underwood, executive director of the NOTO Arts Center, has hit the ground running since October, when he took over his administrative role within Topeka’s arts district community. He’s working to raise funds for the proposed Redbud Park. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

NOTO BOARD MEMBERS

appropriate for them to invest resources to do anything about it. When was that study done?

January or February. So has parking been resolved? No. However, I think one of the things I’ve done is reach out to the Union Pacific railroad about that strip of land adjacent to the tracks, and people park there now. I don’t think it’s a great place to park. I don’t think it’s safe. Not because of crime but because there’s ledges — so I am hoping the UP will come back and do a noor low-cost lease, and I’m hoping to get some support by the city, as well as donations to just level it off and enhance that area so it’s not a dangerous place to park. So that’s one of the things I’ve been working toward. With facilities, it’s an ongoing problem, candidly. Our only solution at this point is when we’re developing the plans for Redbud Park that building will have restrooms as a part of that. But it’s going to be limited to when this building’s open. This is a really old part of town with a really old infrastructure, and it’s taxing. It would be nice if we had more public facilities, not only in NOTO but throughout the city.

So for the next year, what are some of the big goals you’re looking to address?

I’m having some conversations right now with some possible funders, and the impetus of it was looking not at a particular project but thinking bigger — what do we need for the next five years? So I put together, for lack of a better term, Tom’s wish list. That includes light pole decor, a canopy of lights on N. Kansas Avenue, upgrades to parking lots, etc. Looking at Redbud Park, I would love to be able to tell you that we’re breaking ground tomorrow, but I think we’re close to being ready. This facility (the NOTO Arts Center) is underutilized, and we have plans to really kickstart a comprehensive art education. Art classes, opportunities for public forums, for poetry readings, so on and so forth. We want this facility to be used. The basement of this building is just a diamond in the rough. It’s not being utilized. It’s basically storage. We would like to get the resources so we could finish it off,

Thomas Underwood said a future project for the NOTO Arts District is improving parking during the First Friday Art Walk. He hopes to work with the owner of the parking lots adjacent to the the railroad tracks in NOTO, making them more even and safer to park on. [CHRIS NEAL/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

use it for other artrelated things. Whether that’s art classes, artist studios, a place for people to practice performing arts, maybe even a sound studio. We haven’t defined what they can be yet, but we just know it can be a lot more than it is, and we want to really strive for that. And the other thing, quite frankly, is I would like to see funding for personnel. Our funding for my position is only another year and a half. Now, I think it’s going to be extended beyond that, but it’s kind of hard to make a five-year plan when you’ve only got funding for someone for a year and a half. This facility needs its own person, I would love to have a program coordinator, a full-time maintenance person, a full-time administrative assistant, someone who can be here and be a resource for the district. Is there anything new Topekans need to be on the lookout for? And what are you most excited about?

I think everything I just mentioned, quite frankly. There will continue to be on a regular basis, changes and improvement to the NOTO arts and entertainment district. I think we will continue to see more and more embracing of the area; it’s not just two and half blocks. I think we have the potential of certainly being not just a local but a regional destination. We’re going to have the parks, we’re going to have the retail, we’re going to have the art, good food and good drink. And sometimes it’s a challenge to be all things to all people, but I think we’re going to have some things here that can appeal to all people.

• Caleb Asher, Sprout Communications • Shelly Bedsaul, The Hive • Jon Bohlander, The Wheel Barrel • Gayle Burns, Realty Professionals • Karen Christilles, 712 Innovations • Carolyn Cox, The Open Window • Ryan Fickel, Advisors Excel • Mike Foster, Topeka Rescue Mission • Jean Gardner. Rusty Haggles Antiques • Kirk Johnson, CoreFirst Bank & Trust • Claudia Larkin, Brewster Place • Lindsey Martin, NOTO Anonymous/Silver Lake Bank • Staci Dawn Ogle, The Hive • Stella Penry, Generations • Joe Pennington, Stevenson and Co. • Jona Rupnicki, J&J’s Brew & Brew Gallery Bar • Dan Schultz, CivicPlus • Stan Teeter, retired • Jenny Torrence, Serendipity • Barbara Waterman-Peters, Studio 831 • Janice Watkins, Topeka Habitat for Humanity


Sunday, June 17, 2018  B3

NOTO retailers balance business hours Business owners have to figure out what works for them By Savanna Maue savanna.maue@cjonline.com

Halfway through his fourth year offering collectibles and art at Kaw River Rustics in NOTO, Bob Secord says his venue has reached capacity. “As time’s gone on you get a lot more interest, and a lot more vendors,” Secord said. “All of my rental space is gone — it’s a very good thing. I have people on a list waiting to get in.” Secord rents 40 booths at 901 N. Kansas Ave. filled with goods including antique kitchen knick-knacks and stained glass artwork. While walking the two blocks of the art district on a Wednesday morning, a few small groups are leaving restaurants and walking past shops — but few of those shops flash neon signs welcoming visitors. Since Secord opened, he has kept the same hours, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. “We have so many people who come in here and ask if any of the other shops are open, we say, ‘Sorry, but we’re here,’ “ Secord said. “Sometimes Wednesday is a killer day. Other days it’s deader than a doornail. So I have to be open.” Across the street at 840 N. Kansas Ave., Stutzman’s Leather Shoppe is also open five days a week, with slightly shifted hours. Owner Steven Stutzman is open from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Stutzman moved to NOTO

Steve Stutzman stands beside a rack of coats inside his retail store, Stutzman’s Leather Shoppe, at 840 N. Kansas Ave. [CHRIS NEAL/THE

Bob Secord, owner of Kaw River Rustics, completes a customer’s transaction during a First Friday Art Walk. [CHRIS NEAL/THE CAPITAL-

CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

JOURNAL]

in November 2015 and echoed Secord’s business model of being there for the customers. He said there has never been a “big boom” in business, but over the years he has seen slow and steady growth. The leather shop offers all types of leather products, from wallets and luggage to the classic biker jacket. “If definitely helps to have longer established hours,” Stutzman said. “That’s always going to appeal to a larger number of people as far as when they can come and when they can’t.” Stutzman added that while they do offer shorter hours than traditional retailers, he found mornings were especially slow for business in NOTO. “We stay open until 6 p.m. to give people a chance to come here after work if they want to, and then the Saturday hours,” he said. Secord said he tries to play off restaurant hours and has considered staying open later on Fridays and Saturdays for those who might want to stop by after dinner.

“Bradley’s is mainly who I work off of now, because sometimes people come in after breakfast,” Secord said, nodding across the street toward the cafe. “So I want to be there for them — and it works, on Sundays especially.” Since NOTO’s inception, businesses have grappled with questions: Extend hours and try to attract more business? Or only operate during busy hours? It’s a question no single shop owner is able to answer for the district. Such service industries as Ace Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning; Warner Electric; and A-1 New and Used Restaurant Equipment hold regular business hours in the district, but as they are long-term established businesses, Stutzman said, he doesn’t see them face the same issues retailers do. For restaurants, such as Faces by Mayfield, open for a little over a year at the south end of the 800 block, determining hours of operation has been more of a balancing act.

“The restaurant is picking up, so is the nightlife — when it’s good down here it’s good for everybody,” said George Mayfield, owner of Faces. Over the winter, Mayfield said, there was obstacle after obstacle for his business, from road closures to finding new hosts for his evening entertainment. However, he hopes the warmer weather will bring out the crowds and is planning more activities at his restaurant and art gallery — as well as extending the hours. “Right now we’re only open Friday and Saturday, but starting the second weekend in May we hope to be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday and be open 11 a.m. until closing,” Mayfield said. Friday and Saturday hours are more common for the art galleries and studios — some only open the first weekend of the month — but Secord explained it’s all part of the collaborative nature of the arts district.

“We’re trying to be open to just be available and help the neighborhood develop,” he said. “It’s up and down, of course, but First Friday and Saturday, that’s nearly half my business in those two days.” A draw to the area are the one-of-a-kind shops, the kind only found in Topeka’s artsy neighborhood. A longtime business staple was Hillmer’s Luggage Leather and Gifts, which Stutzman said brought customers from across the state. After it closed nine years ago, he said, he wanted to bring those high-quality products back to Topeka. Combining the reasonable rent prices with the eclectic nature of the district was the right move for his business, Stutzman said. “It’s a lot of these specialty stores that draw in business,” Stutzman said. “A lot of the stores and restaurants that have come in, like the Wheel Barrel, are destination places that you don’t get anywhere else in town.”


B4  Sunday, June 17, 2018

Downtown, NOTO leaders see a connected future ‘Dynamic core’ to serve as city attraction

Downtown and NOTO leaders want to connect the areas located on both sides of the Kansas River, knowing that the city will be more successful when they work in tandem. [2017

By Sherman Smith sherman.smith@cjonline.com

Stakeholders on both sides of the Kansas River see a future where the North Topeka Arts District, downtown Topeka and riverfront are thought of as a single destination. They refer to the area as the city’s “dynamic core.” Transportation services, expanded retail offerings and arrival of river-focused attractions will play critical roles in the vision, and Vince Frye, president of Downtown Topeka Inc., said, “We are well on our way.” “We want our community to be perceived as a place with many unique options,” Frye said. “Quality of place is something we’re really focused on going forward. And we see a vibrant downtown as essential to being able to attract and retain our workforce. “Same thing with NOTO. I’ve often said that a downtown represents a community’s pride and prosperity. So we want a downtown that people are proud of and looks like a community that is successful, progressive.” The feeling is mutual in the arts district, which already has proven itself as an attraction, especially with First Friday activities. Thomas Underwood, the district’s executive director, said he wishes the south side “the very best in growth and development.” Jenny Torrence, who owns NOTO Burrito, Serendipity and Pinkadilly, said the more business and art work together, “the more fruitful we will be.” “I feel like the business

FILE PHOTO/ THE CAPITALJOURNAL]

owners are amazing and work together to support one another,” Torrence said. Frye said he meets monthly with Underwood to consider ways to bring the two sides together. Underwood said they compare calendars to avoid conflicting events. Already, shuttles deployed for First Friday events have generated interest. Susan Duffy, general manager for Topeka Metro Transit Authority, said she would like to provide the service more frequently and during lunch hours, but her budget doesn’t allow it. “If I could will it to happen, I would,” Duffy said. Half of TMTA’s budget comes from a mill levy that hasn’t changed in eight years, she said. The organization gets state and federal money, and 15 percent of the budget is from fares. There is no place left to cut, she said. “We’re at a point,” Duffy said, “where we can’t add any more service to Topeka

unless we get more money.” Some people would like to see the return of trolleys to the downtown area, but Duffy said they are problematic for several reasons. In addition to not operating well and requiring many repairs, trolleys aren’t accessible for those with disabilities. Still, Duffy said her agency can play a role in energizing both sides of the river by improving accessibility and safety. And rather than look at the river as a barrier, Duffy said it will bring the two sides together. The river may even offer a unique form of transportation. “Wouldn’t it be fun to get on a ferry?” asked Beth Fager, who served as chairwoman of the riverfront authority for the past eight years. The National Parks Service is working toward completion of an Oregon Trail Park at Papan’s Landing, a historic river crossing, where the ferry could come into play. After years of

working toward riverfront development, the park’s opening could be a watershed moment. Just upstream, a restructured and safer weir soon will allow for a whitewater chute. In the downtown area, Fager envisions nature trails, kayaking and boat ramps. “I see this, really, as the biggest potential of anything to bring people down to the core of our city,” Fager said. With proper branding, Torrence said, people’s perceptions about downtown, the river and NOTO will start to change. They will start to see all three as “that area.” “I don’t know what it is, but you have to bring them together,” she said. Al Struttman, owner of the Moburts spice store downtown, said the “inevitable” joining will benefit businesses like his, where he wants to get more people in the door to get them hooked. He said he benefits from themed First Friday events where he can hand out

samples, even if people don’t buy anything at the time. “When you try my stuff and you start to see the difference, you go, ‘Well, it is unique in that it’s better spices, and it’s got olive oil and vinegar and that good stuff,’ but you’ve got to see that value,” Struttman said. “So I’ve got to get you through the door at least once. Once I’ve got you once, I’m OK. If I can get you the first time.” Caleb Asher, president and CEO of Sprout Communications and NOTO board president, said downtown growth “has to happen,” and within a few years, the corridor will be vibrant on both sides. “I think so many times in this community we start to go, well, why are they getting to do that, or we’re doing this and isn’t this going to compete with it,” Asher said. “It’s like, no! I mean, you can come down for a burger at The Pennant and then go have a beer at the Norsemen. It’s all about growing Topeka.”


Sunday, June 17, 2018  B5


B6  Sunday, June 17, 2018

Partnership between NOTO, rescue mission yields results Movers behind arts district have supported those in need By Tim Hrenchir tim.hrenchir@cjonline.com

As plans were being made to create downtown North Topeka’s NOTO Arts District, Topeka Rescue Mission executive director Barry Feaker told NOTO organizers Anita Wolgast and John Hunter the rescue mission might become that district’s biggest obstacle. Hunter suggested the mission instead become the district’s biggest partner. And that’s what happened. Hunter and Feaker described in an interview last month how the arts community and rescue mission community embraced each other rather than suffer from a collision of cultures. “The depth of this relationship, I think, is remarkable,” Hunter said. Feaker said what’s happened in NOTO runs counter to what often happens in areas being revitalized, where groups that help the homeless tend to be shunned and eventually driven out. Hunter and Feaker became acquainted through their mutual involvement in the nonprofit organization Heartland Visioning, which held community meetings in 2008 aimed at forming strategies to make Topeka and Shawnee County better. The group released a plan that year detailing its vision for the

REDBUD continued from B1

“We’ve started lining it, and I would really like to see it done in less than a month,” Bohlander said. “I know that’s ambitious, but that’s kind of who I am.” Bohlander is a fierce advocate for NOTO, having invested in two businesses with her husband, Jon, and is known around the district for her can-do mentality. Her mural will be one of two outlining the park, with the other painted on the west side of the Topeka Habitat for Humanity Restore building. “We’re really working together as a team,” Bohlander said of the project. “I could never have taken on this project by myself.” The mural is about 12 feet high and 60 feet long, created with the idea of a postcard in mind. “Greetings from Topeka” dominates the space, the lettering filled with aspects that make up the arts district. When asked why greetings from Topeka and not NOTO, Bohlander explained that the park is an improvement for all of Topeka, not just NOTO — a common idea among her fellow district members. Caleb Asher, NOTO board president and downtown business owner, said they hope to add to the growing appeal of the Kansas Avenue corridor with the park. Without duplicating other advancements in the community, they want Redbud Park to have its own niche and identity. “We want it to be a

Retired Heartland Visioning executive director John Hunter, left, and Topeka Rescue Mission executive director Barry Feaker stand in front of the Rescue Mission, which has been a partner in efforts to turn downtown North Topeka into an arts district. [THAD ALLTON/ THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

community. Foundation teams and vision partners then set about putting that plan in place. Hunter and Anita Wolgast served as cochairs for a project to accomplish one of the plan’s goals of creating a community arts district. They first looked at downtown Topeka. But they found most available buildings “needed a ton of work,” were owned by outof-state landlords who charged higher rents than artists would ever pay and were spread out too much to effectively be turned into an arts district, Hunter recalled. He said he and Wolgast

then looked at forming an arts district in downtown North Topeka, where Topeka’s city government had recently made various infrastructure improvements. They learned about 10 buildings there were owned by three people. Hunter and Wolgast met with building owners and pitched their idea. Hunter said they came away thinking the meeting went well but later found out the building owners were actually laughing at the idea. Hunter and Wolgast then met with Feaker, who has been executive director of the rescue mission since 1986. Feaker recalled asking

place where people come and gather,” he said. “Having art displays and large sculptures in the space is critical — musicians and bands and things, we want to include everything like that to really support the district that way.” As the idea moved from dream to concept and prepares to enter the reality phase — as Asher says — local architect and NOTO board member Bryan Falk has begun refining ideas developed by designers at LaMotte West in Lake Oswego, Ore., and the Lakota Group from Chicago. “We wanted to find a way to work with local engineers and designers,” Asher said. “We just thought it was our responsibility as a local organization to find a way to do that, to keep it local.” For about three months, Falk has worked with the community to finalize plans, and continues to prepare for when the board is ready to accept bids. Over that time, Falk and the board decided the most economical way to bring the park to reality is through adaptive reuse. Falk explained the concept as using what’s already in the space, such as a storage shed and large concrete ramp. “We realized pretty quickly that it would be best to use what’s there,” Falk said. “It would be an additional $5,000 to tear out and haul that much concrete, when we could use that money for development.” The ramp will act as a foundation for a piece of art, and a lookout for visitors when visiting the park. The shed will be converted into two

unisex bathrooms, with a small space for vendors, and will act as a transitional indoor/outdoor space for community events and concerts. While Falk said he tried to stay as true as possible to the original plans, as reality drew nearer he and other leaders realized there were more ideas than space. “With the community input we’ve had, we were really able to gauge what we needed to do to really grow the district into a vibrant arts and entertainment district,” Asher said. “The park is an important piece of that.” Two big questions, a timeline for the park’s construction and a budget for the project, are dependent on one major factor: fundraising. The NOTO board is preparing for a capitalfunding campaign and looking for different ways to raise funds not just for the park, but for the district as a whole. “We’re looking for partners in this project,” Asher said. “Possible volunteers. With fundraising, it’s not just writing a check, it’s ‘Can you donate and can you help be a part of this bigger community project.’” Before publicly asking for funding, Asher said committee members need to finalize details of the capital campaign and the best methods for keeping the community excited about the improvements. Thomas Underwood, executive director of the NOTO Arts Center, has been pursuing private funders for the park, but he said without knowing their base funding, it’s difficult to know how much to ask the public for.

them: “How do you combine arts, culture and entertainment with a social service where you have people coming in off the streets, coming out of prison, mental health facilities, that kind of thing?” Feaker said they responded that a lot of artists have struggled as well, so those artists would be able to identify with what the mission’s guests were going through. Feaker shared Hunter and Wolgast’s desire for a revitalized downtown North Topeka, which was characterized by taverns, empty lots, boarded-up storefronts and a perception that

crime was high. Through his involvement with the local Safe Streets crime prevention organization, Feaker said he researched crime statistics and learned crime “wasn’t that bad” in downtown North Topeka. NOTO district organizers publicized that information, which they think helped attract artists to the area. The rescue mission then benefited when NOTO’s first arts center opened at a time when heavy rains were causing the Kansas River to rise toward local homeless camps, making it possible the rescue mission would see more guests than it could accommodate. Feaker recalled how Hunter and Wolgast reacted to that news: “She looked at him. He looked at her. They both nodded, and she said, ‘Use the arts center.’ They didn’t even talk about it.” In 2011, three businesses became the first to open their doors as part of the NOTO Arts District in the 800 and 900 blocks of N. Kansas Avenue. That district expanded by 12 businesses the following year, and it continues to grow. Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, visited NOTO in 2012 and came away saying its early success was a story and model he wanted to spread to other locales. Meanwhile, Feaker has played an active role in promoting NOTO. Hunter said: “We believe right down to

our inner hearts and souls that people needed to hear the message of the mission, that we were not going to allow this community to somehow say: ‘Don’t go over there. The mission is over there.’ We wanted to eradicate that. I think we’ve done a darn good job of getting rid of that in our community.” Today, more than 3,000 people take part in art walks held on the first Friday of each month in NOTO, where many businesses are now open year-round from Thursdays through Saturdays, according to the NOTO website. The rescue mission has allowed its guests to become part of the public arena in NOTO, while creating expectations that they are to avoid panhandling and misbehavior. Hunter said rescue mission staff members and guests have also helped NOTO in ways that included: • Moving furniture, desks and other items into NOTO facilities. • Helping to remodeling one such building. • Spreading mulch for a riverfront festival held last year. • Setting up tables and chairs and manning barriers at events in NOTO, then picking up trash afterward. • Taking part in a class NOTO offered for rescue mission guests who have artistic talent. • Having trained members of the mission’s safety team, wearing special vests, patrol the area while carrying walkie talkies.


Sunday, June 17, 2018  B7

Great Overland Station shares railroad heritage with the public Director welcomes NOTO development as complement to museum

The Great Overland Station, a railroad museum and events center at 701 N. Kansas Ave., was renovated before opening in 2004 to look much like it did when it opened as a railroad passenger station in 1927.

By Tim Hrenchir tim.hrenchir@cjonline.com

Four times a year, Topeka’s Great Overland Station holds “Community Harvey House Luncheons” that bring history to life. Those events recognize businessman Fred Harvey’s chain of Harvey House restaurants, which served good food in elegant settings at Santa Fe railroad stations. Harvey entered the business in 1876, when he took over the restaurant at the Santa Fe depot in Topeka, according to the Great Overland Station’s website. “Preferring the term ‘Harvey Girl’ to waitress, Fred Harvey recruited single women to work at Harvey Houses along the Santa Fe Railroad line from Kansas to California,” it said. “Between the 1880s and the 1950s more than 100,000 women, many Kansans, proudly wore the black-andwhite uniform of the Harvey Company.” Bette Allen, president and chief operating officer since 2005 for the Great Overland Station, said women wearing the standard “Harvey Girl” uniform serve the quarterly luncheon at tables adorned by roses and white tablecloths. She said visitors sometimes come from out of state to enjoy the meal and a guided tour of the museum, with admission being $23.50 per person. The next such event is scheduled for 11:30

[CHRIS NEAL/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

a.m., July 12. For reservations, go to the station’s website or call (785) 2325533, ext. 14. “Everybody loves it,” Allen said of the luncheon. “We haven’t had anybody who was bored or didn’t like it, and a lot of people have come two or three times.” The Harvey House Luncheons are among features at the Great Overland Station, operated at 701 N. Kansas Ave. by the nonprofit Railroad Heritage Inc., as it seeks to carry out its mission of preserving “the rich railroad heritage and other significant history of Topeka and northeast Kansas.” The station, a tourist attraction and event center, is in a building that was one of the finest passenger stations on the Union Pacific railroad line when it opened in 1927. “The last passenger train

left the station May 2, 1971,” the station’s website said. “The building was later remodeled for railroad offices, abandoned in 1988 and damaged by fire in 1992.” The Union Pacific Corporation donated the station in 1998 to Topeka Railroad Days Inc. By the time the museum opened in 2004, the building had undergone extensive renovations to look much like it had in 1927, Allen said. “I think it’s a piece of history that you don’t want to lose,” she said. “Many people do not have the opportunity to have a railroad station like this.” Visitors to the station often say that Topeka is fortunate to have it, Allen added. “People will walk in here and they’re amazed,” she said. “They say, ‘You are so

lucky.’ All these depots are getting torn down.” Throughout the day, visitors can often hear the whistles of trains going past on the tracks just to the station’s north. Many of those trains carry coal, Allen said. Sometimes they carry Army tanks or large windmills, she said. Model trains glide along the tracks in a large display inside the station, where Allen said she particularly enjoys visiting with children. “It’s fun to watch the kids,” she said. “They love trains. So they like coming in here and they like being close to the trains.” Allen said she loves running the museum. “It’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” she said. Still, Allen says the museum faces a challenge in terms of getting the word

out about its offerings. “It’s not well-known,” she said. “You’d be amazed at the number of people who still don’t know it’s here.” Those involved with the museum have consequently welcomed the development of North Topeka’s NOTO Arts District, Allen said. “The development in NOTO was exciting because you have all of us together here, working together, and the goal was to complement each other and support each other and make this another district where people want to go,” she said. Allen said the railroad museum’s staff members often encourage guests to visit NOTO and downtown Topeka, while merchants in NOTO and downtown Topeka often tell customers about the Great Overland Station. “We’ve got the triangle type of thing going on here, with everybody working together,” she said. Allen also spoke positively of National Park Service efforts that could establish an Oregon Trail Riverfront Park.National Park Service officials gathered facts at a charette held here in August 2016 about the proposed park, which would be located on the banks of the Kansas River near the Great Overland Station. The park would highlight Topeka’s ties to the Oregon Trail, which an estimated 300,000 people used to travel between the Missouri River and the Pacific Ocean between 1840 and 1869. Many crossed the Kansas River early in the trip at what is now Topeka.


Barbara Waterman-Peters watches over her student Tom Romig as he paints a flower at Studio 831 in NOTO. [CHRIS NEAL/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

NOTO art expands beyond paint and paper

Performances, classes and expansion plans distinguish district By Savanna Maue savanna.maue@cjonline.com

A small crowd had gathered at Faces By Mayfield, 802 N. Kansas Ave., on the third Friday of the month, for a kind of performance not commonly associated with the NOTO Arts District. It was local comedian Brian Doby’s show, “I’m Serious,” a set in which he steps back from his usual comedy routine and performs as a different character in his arsenal. “Most of the time I have a pretty good following,” Doby said. “The winter was pretty light, but once the summer hits it gets steady again. I would say there’s a pretty consistent group of followers who know about it.” Doby, 26, has been a comedian for six years and has been a semi-regular performer at Faces By Mayfield since it started offering the comedy night. George Mayfield, owner of the venue, said he’s trying to expand the definition of art in Topeka. “We’ll also have different individuals every Thursday, a different poet,” Mayfield said. “We just started that, and we’re also trying to start back up our karaoke night.” Other performance venues include NOTO Burrito, a few doors up at 822 N. Kansas Ave., where owner Jenny Torrence offers an open mic night the first Wednesday of the month, and at the NOTO ArtsPlace, 905 N. Kansas Ave., which hosts an assortment of artists for the First Friday Art Walk, from sculptors and jewelry makers to slam poets. Walking through Topeka arts district, different artists’ studios line the streets, each offering classes for students. There are daylong sessions for children, focusing on sketching, acrylic folk art, watercolor and more.

Guests visit the art gallery at the NOTO Arts Center during a recent First Friday Art Walk. [CHRIS NEAL/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

A longtime watercolor artist, Barbara Waterman-Peters, owner of Studio 831, has begun finalizing a rejuvenated venture of the NOTO Arts Center — hosting art classes for adults. “We’re going to work on adult classes,” WatermanPeters said. “Because especially in the summer, so many places offer children’s classes. The Mulvane (Art Museum), and different places already offer that. So we thought we would find a niche for ourselves.” So far on her schedule, Waterman-Peters has herself teaching the basics of watercolors; Larry Petters teaching mixed media collage; Anne Kufahl teaching drawing; Shelly Bedsaul teaching folk art, barn quilting and drawing with markers; Jennifer McRavin teaching journal making; and Cara Weeks teaching drawing as a form of relaxation, with other slots still waiting to be finalized. Waterman-Peters said classes were something the arts center had been offering off and on for years. With executive director Thomas

Underwood settling into his role, he encouraged her to take the lead on them again. “It’s the kind of thing we can offer to get people into the arts center and be engaged,” Underwood said of the classes. Classes are just one of the ways Underwood hopes to expand the arts scene in NOTO. As part of his “big picture” vision, Underwood describes adding murals to the area, expanding the brand to include more than just the 800 and 900 block of N. Kansas Avenue, updating signage around the district, and possibly, installing a light instillation reading “NOTO” on the giant silos east of the New Sardou Bridge leading into North Topeka. “For instance, the archway outside that says North Topeka crossing,” Underwood said, motioning outside the arts center. “Nobody has any idea where that came from. I grew up in this area. Nobody ever called it that. So something as easy as replacing those letters out there to the NOTO Arts and Entertainment District. Getting some lights for those

archways, I would love to see some additional archways in this area.” In the back of the arts center, Underwood showed some prototypes of light pole decorations he hopes can be installed across the district, three metal “banners” each brandishing NOTO, that would be hung around the area. “Really our goal — when you go downtown, or by Washburn, or any town in America — you see these cool banners and they’re all lined up and neat, it’s very pretty, Underwood said. “But this is NOTO, and we want to be a little bit different. We want to be a place where you come downtown and you see it and you think, ‘Wow, that’s cool.’ It’s not all parsed out to be the very same. It’s not necessarily going to be a homogeneous look.” Underwood wants to expand signage out toward Quincy Street and Topeka Boulevard. “We want to have diversity, an eclectic niche to it,” he said. “And we want to go beyond these two blocks.” As far as decorating silos a hundred feet in the air, Underwood said that dream is very much a work in progress. The silos are owned by Ag Partners, a co-op based in Hiawatha serving area farmers and agricultural producers. Underwood estimates the signage could be done for $6,000 to $8,000, with many of the needed services already being donated. He hasn’t received permission yet, but he hopes the company will be open to the idea. “We need to work hard on making sure the physical location of this area is inviting — appealing, clean, cool. Just so people can see that this is a cool place to be,” Underwood said. “We’ve embraced what is, and are working on how can we enhance it so people can be a part of it — that’s part of the vision.”


Sunday, June 17, 2018  B9

Ritzy’s Closet owner Fredra Carlson helps a customer during the First Friday Art Walk. [CHRIS NEAL/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

NOTO: An eclectic community of local support Business owners look out for one another as district grows

By Savanna Maue savanna.maue@cjonline.com

Linda Warner can’t help but smile as she talks with customers in her FaerieTale Gardens shop. She helps them choose plants, offers advice on the best miniature fairies and accessories, and has a few tricks of the trade if you’re on a budget. Her store, Linda’s Corner Shop at 919 N. Kansas Ave., is crowded with the tabletop gardens, built on cake stands or inside antique wagons, with miniature figurines to complete the look. Warner offers beautiful fairies of all shapes and sizes, including tiniest of bumblebees, floating on a wire, as big as a pinky nail. “My husband and I have been here long before anybody. We’re the old-timers,” Warner said, laughing. “We looked in most of this building before deciding on this one.” While Warner has only been selling her gardens for about three years in NOTO, she has been a part of the community for much longer. Her husband, Larry Warner, began his electrical business in 2004, in the building next door. The variety of the couple’s businesses is a perfect example of the eclectic nature of the arts district. NOTO is anchored by service industries — plumbing, glass installation, electric, air conditioning and more — which remained loyal to NOTO in the years before its artistic renaissance, and which have since molded into the growing arts scene. “I’m sure it’s helped, tremendously,” Warner said of having her store in NOTO. “I think we work really well together.” Warner said she has a loyal group of customers, but new faces also drop by every day. When her visitors stop in, especially for First Friday, she notes other shops down the street she thinks they would be interested in. “I tell them, ‘It’s only two blocks long, so it won’t take you too long to walk around and see what they have,’” she said. “It’s my own little way of helping us all work together.” As guests walk the streets of NOTO, they will pass antique stores, a brewery, restaurants, glass makers, a leather shop, an events venue — all types of businesses to interest all types of people.

Mike Weibel and Nicole DeGennard, of Front Door Catering, make a Cuban sandwich at their kitchen in NOTO. [CHRIS NEAL/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

Linda Warner shows off one of her FaerieTale Gardens at Linda’s Corner Shop, 919 N. Kansas Ave. [CHRIS NEAL/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

At the end of the 900 block is a newer business in the district, and one of the few that focuses solely on retail. Fredra Carlson’s Ritzy’s Closet moved from the southernmost end of NOTO to the corner space in November, more than doubling the square footage. Carlson described her clothes as: “Kind of Arizona, cruise-wear, resort wear, but Kansas wear, too.” “It’s all cotton breeze, I would rather see a lot of people in cotton than in a knit, it just breaths so much better and looks so much better.” Carlson reflects her offerings: bright and colorful,

with a personality. She and her husband moved to northeast Kansas two years ago to be closer to family, but, she only made it a year before getting the urge to open another retail store. “I eat, breathe, and sleep retail,” Carlson said. She first opened a clothing boutique in 1979 in Arkansas and has tried online selling, reopened after a move to Arizona, and has returned to Kansas after living here many years ago. “It’s been great,” Carlson said of her reception in NOTO. “I’m open the same hours as everybody else, so I don’t get to go out and see everybody else,

but people are getting out, and we’re getting new businesses all the time.” Located across the street from the Wheel Barrel, Carlson said her new neighbors have been supportive, and she tries to offer her services in return. She has started staying open later on Friday nights, so when there’s a wait list across the street, people can come inside and check out what she has to offer. “I used to be an artist,” Carlson said. “And I just felt like this was the best fit for me. Now I can incorporate art into the clothes; it makes it unique and one of a kind.” Dining options in NOTO reflect the district’s eclectic nature. Bradley’s Corner Cafe is the oldest eatery around the block, offering staple breakfast and cafe options, but in each direction there’s something different: tacos and burritos, specialty grilled cheeses, and a little off the main drag, homemade BBQ at Front Door Catering. At 114 N.W. Laurent St., Mike Weibel and Nicole DeGennard keep busy in their quiet corner, running their food truck, catering, teaching cooking classes, offering boxed lunches, and planning the one-day opening of Max’s Bistro, a small restaurant they hope to open next door to the catering business. “We’re holding off on moving into next door, it still needs some cleaning, but hopefully in the next year,” DeGennard said. The bistro is named after DeGennard’s son, who was in a car crash in 2017 and has since suffered from a brain injury. Once DeGennard and Weibel learned Max would recover, he’s been helping DeGennard with her boxed lunches and keeping up with the demand on First Friday. It’s been more than a year since Front Door Catering moved to NOTO, and like most businesses, DeGennard said interest is growing. Every two months she and her husband offer a “Sunday Funday” cooking class, where guests bring their own beverages, and they teach a brunch staple. DeGennard said the recipes have included quiche and homemade pastas, and she enjoys offering kitchen shortcuts to make cooking easier. “Business has doubled,” DeGennard said of the move. “We’re doing really, really well.”


B10  Sunday, June 17, 2018

Flooding, bridge move shattered once-vibrant downtown North Topeka Vibrant district was founded as separate city, faced rocky times By Tim Hrenchir tim.hrenchir@cjonline.com

The North Topeka Business District's sidewalks once bustled with people. Then that area was ravaged by flooding in 1951, followed by setbacks that included a bridge collapse 14 years later. Empty lots, boarded-up storefronts and taverns marked the district in 1994, when its first parade in decades was held to boost community pride, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. “There’s all these buildings sitting empty down here,” 65-year-old North Topeka resident Dorothy Wilson told the newspaper that day. “It’s a shame.” Still, downtown North Topeka has made a comeback in recent years after becoming the canvas for the NOTO Arts District. People involved with the district also look forward to the potential establishment of an Oregon Trail Riverfront Park. The site that would become Topeka was located along the 2,170-mile Oregon Trail, which an estimated 300,000 people used to travel between the Missouri River and the Pacific Ocean between 1840 and 1869. White settlers began to inhabit present-day North Topeka as early as the 1840s, when brothers Joseph, Etienne and Louis Pappan began operating a ferry

This photo of downtown Topeka during the 1951 flood was taken from a boat to its north, in the area of the Melan Bridge. [1951 FILE PHOTO/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

service carrying settlers across the Kansas River. The city of Topeka was founded on the south side of that river in 1854 and incorporated in 1857. Present-day North Topeka was founded in 1865 as the town of Eugene by Louis Laurent and William Curtis, according to a 2004 report on the history of that area crafted by the city of Topeka’s planning department. Curtis was the grandfather of Charles Curtis, who was born in that area in 1860 and would serve from 1929 to 1933 as vice president of the United States. Eugene was annexed into the city of Topeka on April 9, 1867, according to "Witness

of the Times — A History of Shawnee County," published in 1976 by Roy Bird and Doug Wallace. The first passenger train to come to Topeka arrived Jan. 1, 1866, at the Union Pacific Railroad depot in North Topeka, just east of Kansas Avenue, that book said. About 1870, a permanent bridge was built across the Kansas River to connect North Topeka to the rest of the city, the planning department report said. "This bridge further increased the prosperity of North Topeka, because of its easy access and placement around a major thoroughfare to Downtown Topeka," it said. Still, "Witness of the

Times" said: "More and more North Topekans believed themselves little more than unwanted stepchildren of those on the south side. They saw important business men descend from Union Pacific trains — long the only connection to the East — only to hire cabs to cross over to south Topeka." Some North Topekans sought to persuade Kansas legislators to allow them to secede from the city of Topeka, but a bill that would have allowed that was defeated in 1873. Meanwhile, North Topeka had begun to grow significantly to include mills, schools, homes, banks and hotels, the planning department report said.

"North Topeka's historic business district thrived because of its convenient location along Kansas Avenue," it said. "The commercial buildings formed a continuous facade on both sides of the avenue that included a variety of stores, with many having living quarters on the upper levels." The business district suffered in May 1903, when North Topeka was devastated by the deadliest flood in Topeka's history, at a time when the city had no dikes to stave off floodwaters. The Kansas River became two to three miles wide, forcing 4,000 people from See FLOODING, B11


Sunday, June 17, 2018  B11

FLOODING Continued from B10

their homes. The flood killed 57 people, including 38 in Topeka, according to the Kansas State Historical Society. Still, downtown Topeka recovered and prospered in the decades that followed. In the 1940s and early 1950s, the 800 and 900 blocks of N. Kansas Avenue were "the place to be seen," according to the website for NOTO. "It was in this downtown district that folks got their groceries, saw a matinee movie, went to the hardware store, got their car fixed and so on," it said. "Farmers would set aside special days to head to town and visit North Topeka."Then came the 1951 flood. Churning, muddy waters broke through the city's North Topeka dike to flood the business district during the early morning hours of July 12, 1951. Capital-Journal archives show the river crested at 36.4 feet in Topeka the following day to set a record, though the river is thought to have risen even higher during 1844 flooding. At least 17,000 people lost their homes in 1951 to the flooding, though no lives were lost. As the waters receded, North Topeka found itself under a thick layer of river mud. "In the heart of North Topeka's business district, hardly a storefront remains intact," the Daily Capital reported at the time. "Great broken plate glass windows litter the sidewalks and mud is several feet deep in every store." In the first week after the flood, more than 200 North Topeka merchants

Topeka firefighters aided at the scene of the collapse of the Melan Bridge on July 2, 1965. [1965 FILE PHOTO/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

attended a city commission meeting to discuss flood recovery measures, according to the Topeka State Journal. The North Topeka business district suffered another setback when Topeka's city government began work in 1964 to replace its Melan Bridge, which had been built in 1898 and ran directly from S. Kansas Avenue in downtown Topeka to N. Kansas Avenue in downtown North Topeka. The replacement bridge runs instead from S. Kansas Avenue to N.E. Quincy, one block east of the Melan Bridge. On July 2, 1965, the old bridge trembled and part

of it “collapsed with a roar,” The Topeka State Journal reported.Two of the bridge’s spans totaling about 300 feet quickly crumbled, with damage coming largely on its east side toward the south end. The accident killed one person, 53-year-old appliance salesman Kenneth Allen, whose car plunged 60 feet into the river and landed on its roof atop rubble, pinning him in the driver’s seat. Authorities concluded the collapse came after construction of the replacement bridge caused the riverbed to shift support from the old one, which was subsequently removed.

The decision to relocate and rebuild the bridge one block to the east "no longer allowed for commuters to pass directly through the (business) district, causing many businesses to fail financially," according to the 2004 city planning department report. That move "caused the final downfall of what was a buzzing downtown district," said the NOTO website. It said crimes rates rose and "the neighborhood turned rough" between the 1970s and 2000s in downtown North Topeka, as residents "no longer wanted to visit the area." But in 2011, three businesses opened their doors as part of the NOTO Arts District in the 800 and 900 blocks of N. Kansas Ave., the NOTO website said. The district expanded by 12 businesses the following year and continues to grow, it said. Today, more than 3,000 people take part in art walks held on the first Friday of each month in NOTO, where many businesses are now open year-round from Thursdays through Saturdays, the NOTO website said. "NOTO is now, once again the place to be seen and is the colorful heartbeat of North Topeka with murals, artists, antiques and so much more!" it said. Meanwhile, an effort by the federal National Park Service could result in the establishment of an Oregon Trail Riverfront Park in North Topeka.Park Service officials gathered facts at a charette held here in August 2016 about the proposed park. It would be on the banks of the Kansas River near the Great Overland Station, a railroad heritage museum that opened in 2004 at 701 N. Kansas Ave.

North Topeka Timeline

1840s

The three Pappan brothers begin operating a Kansas River ferry service in what is now North Topeka.

1860

Future U.S. Vice President Charles Curtis is born in what is now North Topeka.

1865

Present-day North Topeka is founded as the town of Eugene.

1867

Eugene is annexed by the city of Topeka.

1870

A permanent bridge is built connecting downtown Topeka and the North Topeka Business District.

1903

North Topeka is ravaged by the deadliest flood in the city's history.

1951

Flooding again devastates North Topeka, leaving it under a thick layer of river mud.

1965

The Melan Bridge between downtown Topeka and the North Topeka Business District collapses.

1994

That district has become dominated by empty lots, boarded-up storefronts and taverns.

2011

The first businesses of the NOTO Arts District open their doors.


B12  Sunday, June 17, 2018


Sunday, June 17, 2018  C1

DOWNTOWN: ITS TIME IS NOW S E C T I O N 3 O F 4 : E V E N I N G E N T E R TA I N M E N T TOPEKA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER Address: 214 S.E. 8th Ave Phone: (785) 234-2787 Website: topekaperformingarts.org

Two venues, one goal

J

TPAC, Jayhawk Theatre see role in downtown revitalization By Jan Biles • jbiles@cjonline.com

eff Carson, president of the Jayhawk State Theatre of Kansas board of directors, and Larry Gawronski, executive director of the Topeka Performing Arts Center, regularly meet for coffee at nearby Juli’s Coffee and Bistro. Their discussion typically hones in on the revitalization of downtown Topeka and how the two venues could collaborate on programming and other ventures. “There are so many things we could be doing — that we are doing,” Gawronski said.Three blocks separate the Jayhawk Theatre and TPAC — a closeness seen as an advantage when envisioning the future. See VENUES, C6 The Topeka Performing Arts Center, above, and Jayhawk Theatre, below, can work together to attract audience to downtown Topeka for a variety of purposes, its leaders say. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

J AY H AW K T H E AT R E Address: 720 S.W. Jackson St. Phone: (785) 233-4295 Website: jayhawktheatre.org

Ballet Midwest dancers perform a fight scene during its production of “Romeo and Juliet” in April at the Topeka Performing Arts Center. The production featured a cast of 99 dancers, of which 26 were men. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

Ballet Midwest dancers prepare their makeup and hair before a performance of “Romeo and Juliet” in April at the Topeka Performing Arts Center. The ballet company uses the TPAC stage for many of its productions. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]


C2  Sunday, June 17, 2018

TPAC making strides in upgrading facility Efforts to reduce deficit a top priority By Jan Biles jbiles@cjonline.com

While audiences' affinity for the Topeka Performing Arts Center has never been better, its executive director Larry Gawronski says, “There’s always concern about how do you make ends meet.” Faced with an operational deficit, Gawronski and members of TPAC’s board of trustees are working to increase revenue to sustain programming and youth outreach programs. “We have a $190,000 deficit,” Gawronski said. “That is $126,000 of proposed capital improvements, and if you do the math, somewhere between $65,000 and $70,000 of operational deficit. The city of Topeka, which owns the building, gives an annual subsidy, and it’s based on what they can give knowing" other public services need funding, too. Gawronski says the first priority is to cover TPAC’s operational deficit and then make capital improvements not paid for by the city, such as theatrical curtains and lighting and sound equipment. “I’m not talking about (capital improvements to) the building, because the building is owned by the city, and they will take care of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, ceiling tiles,” he said. “Virtually everything in the building is 25 years old,” said Jack Wempe, president of the TPAC

A production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in March at the Topeka Performing Arts Center exceeded revenue expectations, according to TPAC executive director Larry Gawronski. The production was locally produced, directed and cast. [SUBMITTED]

TOPS AT TPAC The top 15 acts to play at the Topeka Performing Arts Center are as follows: Act—— date ..... attendance Paw Patrol Live! ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Nov. 30, 2016......... 3,752 (2 shows) “Jesus Christ Superstar” --------------------------------------------------------------- March 23-24, 2018. 3,056 (2 shows) Casting Crowns --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Nov. 20, 2015........ 2,393 Mannheim Steamroller Christmas ---------------- Dec. 21, 2015........ 2,349 Long Island medium Theresa Caputo- Nov. 11, 2013........ 2,306 Ron White ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Feb. 25, 2017........ 2,271 Bill Cosby -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Feb. 16, 2013........ 2,169 Rodney Carrington ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Sept. 12, 2009...... 2,024 Jerry Seinfeld ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sept. 19, 2013...... 1,867 Kansas----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Oct. 6, 2017.......... 1,855 Comedian Gabriel Iglesias ------------------------------------------------------ Feb. 24, 2011........ 1,785 Country icon Willie Nelson ----------------------------------------------------- March 7, 2013...... 1,754 Oak Ridge Boys ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Nov. 25, 2011........ 1,752 Singer Kenny Rogers -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- April 1, 2011......... 1,751 The Illusionists ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Feb. 2, 2018.......... 1,662 SOURCE: TOPEKA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER

board of trustees and recently retired director of investor relations at Capitol Federal. “TPAC doesn’t have the funds to do a lot of repairs. We do upgrades to make sure the place is safe for performers and the audience. The light and sound systems are tweaked as we can afford to do.”

Wempe, who has been on the board for five years, says the annual administrative/fixed expenses for TPAC was listed on Jan. 1 as $700,000. This year, the city budgeted $535,000 for TPAC, which includes $150,000 for TPAC operations, said Molly Hadfield, the

city's director of media relations. The remaining $385,000, which comes from the general fund, goes toward utilities and property insurance for the building. The city is working on restoring the steps and upgrading the lighting at TPAC. The project will be paid for with $600,000 in general funds. However, Hadfield says, the city is applying for state historic tax credits, which are “equal to 25 percent of the qualifying expenses incurred during the renovation.” The city also will be conducting an Americans with Disabilities Act assessment of the building. Hadfield says no ADA-related renovations are planned at this time. Unexpected boost Gawronski says TPAC’s strategy for generating revenue includes boosting membership in the Friends of TPAC; continuing its

annual Grape Escape fundraiser; increasing corporate sponsorships; and opening the theater to local dance groups and ballet companies for performances and community groups for nontheatrical functions, such as wedding receptions, Gingerbread Homes for the Holidays and the Top Tank awards ceremony. Main-stage touring shows also bring in revenue. “We need all of those to continue to serve the community,” Wempe said. This spring, a production of the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” was a surprising income generator for TPAC. The show was locally produced, directed and cast. Wempe says about 3,000 people attended the two showings of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” bringing in roughly $60,000. TPAC netted $20,000 after expenses were paid. “It was a tremendous moneymaker for TPAC,” he said. “It has done wonders to help us mitigate that operational deficit,” Gawronski said. Profits from the musical will be used, in part, to purchase new stage curtains. Emphasis on kids Gawronski says efforts to increase revenue and reduce TPAC's deficit aren’t so the performance hall can bring in more commercial mainstage acts. “It’s so we can continue to do the

community, youth and educational outreach programs that TPAC has become known for,” he said. About 5,000 children participate in TPAC’s youth programs each year, Wempe says. TPAC’s outreach programs include: • Schooltime Theater Series, which brings students to TPAC for programming. • Sheffel Theater Clinic, which immerses children, many considered to be at-risk, into the world of theater. • Young Artist Awards, which provide scholarships to high school juniors for excellence in dramatic theater, dance, visual arts, instrumental music and creative writing. One of TPAC’s goals is to make the connection between the performing arts and the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills youngsters are learning in school, Gawronski says. For example, how angles learned in math class are used in designing the artistic lighting for a show or how accurate measurements are needed to build stage sets. “Our emphasis is children, because when the light bulb goes off in their head … before you know it, they’re thinking about ‘I want to work on the lights,’ ‘I want to be dancer, a singer, an actor,’” he said. “I like it when they like the technical stuff." Contact niche editor Jan Biles at (785) 295-1292.


Sunday, June 17, 2018  C3

TPAC’s fall lineup taking shape Broadway musical, comedians and bands among acts By Jan Biles jbiles@cjonline.com

When executive director Larry Gawronski is scouting main-stage shows for the Topeka Performing Arts Center, he knows he can’t go wrong if he secures acts in what he calls one of the “five C’s”: comedy, country, Christian, classic rock or children’s. Acts that have topped the bill in the past five years — and brought in the largest crowds — have included Christian rock band Casting Crowns, comedian Ron White, 1970s rock band Kansas, country legend Willie Nelson and children’s favorite Paw Patrol Live! For next year’s programming, Gawronski is continuing to follow that formula but is also banking on a popular Broadway musical. “We just confirmed Tim Allen, the comedian — huge!” he said in late April. Allen is scheduled to perform on Feb. 22. Before then, others coming to the TPAC stage include Christian music artist Danny Gokey on Oct. 27; illusionist Rick Thomas on Nov. 3; Hairball, described as a “bombastic celebration of arena rock” with tributes to the rock bands of the 1980s, on Nov. 16; and an Oak Ridge Boys Christmas show on Nov. 28. “Because of the

popularity of the show, we are going to make a bid on and buy a onenight presentation of the Broadway touring show ‘Jersey Boys’ — huge!” Gawronski said, adding the touring show is expected to stop in Topeka in the fall or spring 2019. “Jersey Boys” follows the formation, success and breakup of The Four Seasons, a 1960s group known for such hits as “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Sherry,” “My Eyes Adored You,” “Working My Way Back to You” and “December 1963 (Oh, What a Night).” Gawronski considered booking the show for years and has placed restrictions on where and when it can play to ensure a sold-out house at TPAC. “They have played Kansas City. They have played Lawrence, and they played Manhattan,” he said. “I have been comfortably waiting for those markets to play, so now I’ve got the market. I’ve put a 100-mile restriction on where they can play from TPAC and 90 days on either side (of the date).” Gawronski says two corporate sponsors already have been secured for the musical — Capitol Federal and Advisors Excel. When booking acts, Gawronski weighs what’s current and available, diversity and up-and-coming performers. The cost of tickets for a show also drives decisions. “We try to offer an

ON TAP AT TPAC Here are some of the mainstage events scheduled at the Topeka Performing Arts Center: Oct. 27: Christian music artist Danny Gokey Nov. 3: Illusionist Rick Thomas Nov. 16: Hairball, a tribute to 1980s hair bands like Poison, KISS, Alice Cooper and Bon Jovi Nov. 28: Oak Ridge Boys Christmas show Fall or spring 2019: Broadway musical “Jersey Boys” Feb. 22: Comedian Tim Allen Information: topekaperformingarts.org

everyman price,” he said. “There’s still going to be expensive tickets (for some shows), but our goal is to try to make them affordable for everybody’s pocketbook.” VenuWorks, the company that promotes and manages TPAC, is acting as the promoter and partnering with the venue for two shows: Hairball and the Oak Ridge Boys. Jim Wempe, president of the TPAC board of trustees, credits Gawronski with securing programming that appeals to Topekans and area residents. “Larry brings in quality acts to the city,” Wempe said, “and I would encourage people to come in to see at least one show a year.” Call niche editor Jan Biles at (785) 295-1292.

ABOVE: Illusionist Rick Thomas will appear Nov. 3 at the Topeka Performing Arts Center. LEFT: Hairball, a tribute to the hair bands of the 1980s, will take the stage at the Topeka Performing Arts Center on Nov. 16. The music of Bon Jovi, Poison, KISS, Alice Cooper and others will be featured. [PHOTOS SUBMITTED]


C4  Sunday, June 17, 2018

Jayhawk Theatre steps into the spotlight Awareness campaign aims to bring people into venue

JAYHAWK STATE THEATRE OF KANSAS

By Jan Biles jbiles@cjonline.com

The past year has been one of action and reassessment for the Jayhawk State Theatre of Kansas board of directors. A year ago, the impetus was on developing a donor base, laying the foundation for the theater’s operation and making repairs so the nearly 92-year-old venue could be used for community events while plans for its restoration/ renovation continued. “This year, it became apparent that we’ve got to get on schedule with a fundraising plan,” said Jeff Carson, board president. “Our goal, of course, is to establish a capital campaign this year. I think what we’ve been doing … is establishing the Jayhawk as a real viable project that people should get behind and support.” Carson has been working with project architect Vance Kelley, of TreanorHL, and Eby Construction, the designated general contractor, to assess possible uses of the different spaces within the theater. In addition, the 16-member board of directors is doing the groundwork and building relationships to ensure a successful capital campaign, which is still in its formative stage. “The fundraising could certainly take a couple of years,” he said. In the meantime, the board is focusing its efforts on another type of campaign — promoting awareness of the Jayhawk, especially through the booking of events that bring people into the historic theater. Making progress Ben Coates, president of Peoples Benefit Group and a seven-year Jayhawk Theatre board member, says the campaign to make people more aware of the space “has kicked off well.” The theater has opened its doors to the Ad Astra Ensemble Theatre, the Last Minute folk concert series, yoga classes, movie screenings, hip-hop poetry slams, youth-oriented events, wedding receptions, tours and other activities, many designed for all ages. “A lot of things are happening at the Jayhawk,” Coates said. Robin Bonsall, a real estate agent and vice president of the Jayhawk Theatre’s board, says

A rendering of the restored Jayhawk Theatre shows the view from the stage, looking out at the main floor and balcony. [SUBMITTED]

the awareness campaign is “at the heart” of the board’s efforts this year. “The awareness campaign is to renew the energy and excitement of people in the community who have memories of it in its glory days,” she said. “The awareness campaign is also about bringing in young people who didn’t know the Jayhawk existed, and now they are asking how they can get involved.” Rental fees from booking the Jayhawk gallery and main-stage theater help pay monthly costs to make small fixes to the building. Grant money and donations cover larger repairs and purchases. Improvements in the past few years have included new projectors for the gallery and mainstage theater; carpeting and new drywall in the gallery; a new roof; a lowered fire escape; replacing the stairs into the basement; and a $100,000 grant-funded marquee. “Some people might say (the marquee is) a waste of money, and they’re welcome to their opinion, but it gets us a day closer to opening and generating a million and a half dollars a year in sales tax, employment taxes and guest taxes,” said Carson, referring to the estimated economic impact of the Jayhawk Theatre once restored. Projects on the to-do list are sealing the foundation along the alley to help keep moisture out of theater and replacing the wooden stage doors with insulated steel doors that

A rendering of the restored Jayhawk Theatre shows the exterior of the building and the theater’s marquee. [SUBMITTED]

A rendering of the restored Jayhawk Theatre shows the stage and the overhead lighted sky feature. [SUBMITTED]

provide more security. “Those short-term goals give us things we can be working on now. That way if the fundraising takes a little longer, at least we’re making progress,” Carson said.

Destination point Coates believes the Jayhawk Theatre can be “the hook” that brings people to downtown Topeka 200 to 300 nights a year — integral to establishing it

as a live entertainment destination. “This is what I’m most excited about,” he said. “I really believe when (the Jayhawk is) up and running, it will be nice enough, and with

BOARD OF DIRECTORS The Jayhawk Theatre is owned by Historic Jayhawk Theatre Inc., a nonprofit organization that works to preserve, rehabilitate, restore, maintain and operate the theater. Members of its board are: Jeff Carson, president, coowner of Gizmo Pictures Robin Bonsall, vice president, real estate agent at Coldwell Banker Griffith & Blair Sam Hicks, treasurer, accountant at Topeka Metro Irene Haws, secretary, sales and marketing at Dynamic Computer Corporation Solutions of Topeka Mark Burenheide, trust officer at Capital City Bank Ben Coates, president of Peoples Benefit Group Ashley Bahm, president of Bahm Demolition Co. and GreenPoint C&D Processing Center Amber Bonnett, digital branch librarian/bibliotechnician at Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library Scott Gales, principal and president of Architect One John Gonzalez, lead developer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas Brendan Jensen, owner of Jensen Communications Inc. Charles Morgan, account coordinator at jones huyett Partners Kelly Rippel, manager at Oral Health Kansas Bobbi Trammell, retired with extensive teaching and nonprofit experience Travis Youngblood, CEO of Tradepost Entertainment Wes Weathers, attorney with Goodell Stratton Edmonds & Palmer

cutting-edge technology, that we will be able to keep Topeka dollars in Topeka and even have people from Lawrence and Kansas City come here to see it.” While Coates and other board members want the Jayhawk to be open as soon as possible, they don’t want to cut corners or not follow fundraising standards to do that. Bonsall, who has been on the Jayhawk Theatre board since February 2017, believes she is part of an effort that could influence future generations. “It’s scary because we have a lot ahead of us. It will cost a lot of money,” she said. “But it will be exciting to say 30 years from now that we were a part of this.” Call niche editor Jan Biles at (785) 295-1292.

Jayhawk Theatre seeing uptick in events Ad Astra Theatre Ensemble among groups booking historic venue By Jan Biles jbiles@cjonline.com

For years, the Ad Astra Theatre Ensemble was a “nomadic” troupe — going from one space to another performing plays, according to Ad Astra board member Robin Bonsall. Recently, the 7-yearold, self-described “grassroots, homegrown” theater troupe has found a home at the Jayhawk Theatre, presenting productions

of “High Fidelity” and “No Exit” on the nearly 92-year-old main stage. As a result, Ad Astra is recognizing new faces in its audiences, and the Jayhawk Theatre is seeing people who have lived in Topeka for a while visiting the historic theater for the first time. Ad Astra isn’t the only performing group in Topeka that has benefited from the reopening of the theater’s gallery and main stage. Bonsall, who is also vice president of the Jayhawk State Theatre of Kansas board of directors, says the venue has seen “a huge uptick” in events.

“Community people are reaching out to us and want to host events in our space,” Bonsall said. “Young people are reaching out to us, typically through social media. We now have smaller events scheduled through mid-2019.” Jeff Carson, president of the Jayhawk Theatre board, says the gallery has been used for Last Minute folk concerts, hip-hop poetry slams, smaller plays, a “Back to the Future” laser tag and mobile gaming night, receptions and community meetings. Larger plays, movies and other events have been scheduled in the

main-stage theater. Carson says he was impressed with the 125 or so people who turned out for Ad Astra’s production of “High Fidelity” on an April night chilled by winter's return. “It was a bitterly cold Saturday night, bitterly cold, but we had a full house,” he said. On St. Patrick’s Day, he recalls, a similar number of people — including city and state officials — bought tickets for the showing of “The Quiet Man,” a movie starring John Wayne. Bonsall says the success of the Jayhawk Theatre is important

Members of the Ad Astra Theatre Ensemble perform a scene from “Urinetown the Musical” last fall on the stage of the Jayhawk Theatre. The production was the first to be presented on the historic stage in several decades. [SUBMITTED]

to the revitalization of downtown Topeka and the entire community. “It’s positioned to (make) a contribution …

economically and artistically,” she said. Call niche editor Jan Biles at (785) 295-1292.


Sunday, June 17, 2018  C5

TPAC, Jayhawk Theatre ponder ways to augment programming Coordinating calendars may be an option By Jan Biles jbiles@cjonline.com

The Topeka Performing Arts Center and the Jayhawk Theatre may be competitors when it comes to attracting audiences and booking acts, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be collaborators, too. When the Jayhawk Theatre is fully operational, the thousand-seat venue will show movies and book comedy acts; offer concerts with an open floor for standing and balcony seating; and have tables and chairs for weddings, banquets, corporate gatherings and other events. Its gallery is being used now for music shows and hip-hop poetry slams, while Ad Astra Theatre Ensemble is presenting plays on its main stage. “We want to do that, because we want to separate ourselves from TPAC somewhat,” said Jeff Carson, president of the Jayhawk State Theatre of Kansas board of directors. “TPAC is 2,400 seats and fixed chairs and a little more formal of a programming atmosphere. Their place is for that kind of show, a show that we can’t fit in the Jayhawk. The other thing I think that makes the Jayhawk unique is its age and its architecture. There’s nothing like it here.”

In addition to having twice the number of seats as the Jayhawk, TPAC has 15,000 square feet of meeting space, a dance studio and a black-box theater that seats up to 140 people. The facility attracts national comedy, music and Broadway tours. Comedian Ron White, Christian band Casting Crowns and the China Circus have topped its bill. Larry Gawronski, TPAC executive director, says one of the ways TPAC, the Jayhawk Theatre and the city’s other live entertainment venues can work together is by sharing calendars to prevent booking similar acts on the same date. “The amount of expendable income that people have is only so much. You’ll end up having undue competition, because people will select one of those events or two of the four,” Gawronski said. “So I think sharing our calendars, knowing what we’re going after, knowing we’d rather (the show) be in Topeka than in another market — Lawrence, Manhattan, Kansas City, Wichita, etc., etc. — makes more sense.” Competition among the venues isn’t always a bad thing, he said. “If a show, whatever it is, is looking at comparing the (Kansas) Expocentre with TPAC with the Jayhawk (Theatre), good for Topeka, because if one of us gets it, Topeka wins,”

he said. “I would never look at that other than as a win. That’s because I want so badly for Topeka to succeed, to exceed expectations and to take its stature as a capital city.” Carson and Gawronski say other ways the venues could collaborate include distributing each other’s brochures; coordinating programming for a special event, such as a children’s film series; or serving as a backup facility for community events when needed. Call niche editor Jan Biles at (785) 295-1292.

Jeff Carson, president of the Jayhawk State Theatre of Kansas board of directors, talks about the future of the historic downtown theater and how it can collaborate with the Topeka Performing Arts Center to make downtown Topeka a credible entertainment destination. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

Larry Gawronski, executive director of the Topeka Performing Arts Center, says entertainment venues in Topeka need to coordinate their calendars to avoid saturating the market with similar acts at the same time of the year. [CHRIS NEAL/ THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]


C6  Sunday, June 17, 2018

VENUES Continued from C1

The Jayhawk Theatre, 720 S.W. Jackson St., and TPAC, 214 S.E. 8th Ave., are considered anchors for the revitalization of downtown Topeka — working separately and together to make the capital city a credible destination for live entertainment in the Midwest. “The great thing about having the historic Jayhawk Theatre and TPAC within blocks of each other is that we surround downtown with entertainment opportunities,” said Carson, co-owner of Gizmo Pictures Inc., a film and video production company at 112 S.E. 8th Ave. Vince Frye, president and CEO of Downtown Topeka Inc., says one of the goals of the revitalization project is to make downtown the entertainment center for the community, and the two theaters can play a part in restoring the district’s vibrancy. “TPAC is the larger facility and has the ability to attract national groups and yet still be a facility for the community, for dance recitals and meetings of organizations,” Frye said. “It’s the performance hall that a community needs and values. “The Jayhawk was and hopefully will be the great theater we remember during its heyday. It’s a smaller venue and allows for more intimate performances, films, video conferencing. And as we’ve seen, it’s been a great location for events like the mayoral forum and things of that nature that are community-oriented.” A little perspective The Jayhawk Theatre and TPAC have seen what happens when interest in live entertainment wanes and attendance dwindles. The Jayhawk Theatre, the dream of Topeka businessman E.H. Crosby and one of the first air-conditioned theaters in Kansas, opened in August 1926. Citizens flocked to the theater to see movies, touring vaudeville acts and local performers. But the theater’s luster faded with the onset of drive-in theaters and televisions, leading to its closure in 1976. Efforts to restore the theater began in the mid-1990s, with Topekans Jim and Nancy Parrish buying the theater and donating it to the nonprofit Historic Jayhawk Theatre Inc. TPAC opened 1940 as the city’s Municipal Auditorium, where circuses, wrestling, boxing, basketball and concerts took to the stage and main floor. The auditorium closed in 1987, when its future became uncertain as the Kansas Expocentre was being built. Thanks to the efforts of individuals working with state and federal grant programs, the facility reopened as the Topeka Performing Arts Center in March 1991. The rough times faced by the Jayhawk Theatre and TPAC reflected those of other downtown businesses that struggled in the

1960s-80s to keep their doors open as consumers migrated to malls on the southern and western edges of the city. That historic perspective, perhaps, has made Carson and Gawronski more determined in their efforts to cement the viability of their venues and work together and with others toward the broader goal of downtown revitalization. “If you looked at the physical layout of downtown, and you include everything from the Ramada Inn to Constitution Hall/ Rotary Park and then start looking at the whole renovation of Kansas Avenue from 4th to 10th. Then inbetween you’ve got TPAC and the Jayhawk Theatre, and you’ve got The Break Room, which does a lot of black-box theater events, comedy and music, and then you have The Pennant and the new Cyrus Hotel opening up, it becomes — wow!” Gawronski said. “To put all these things together in a collective mall of stuff to do is exciting. And once you get people living downtown, it brings a whole 24-7 vibe to a downtown that was formerly 8-to-5 Monday through Friday.” Economic boost Gawronski and Carson say their respective live entertainment venues are economic generators for Topeka. In addition to buying tickets, local residents go out to eat before or after a show. Out-of-towners stay the weekend in Topeka, spending money at motels, retail stores and restaurants. Performers and their production teams rent hotel rooms, buy groceries and gas for their buses and wash clothes at laundromats. “The longer they stay, the more of what I call clean or new money is being circulated in our economic model,” Gawronski said. “That clean dollar will recycle almost seven times.” TPAC has a documented annual economic impact of more than $9 million dollars. The Jayhawk Theatre is projected to have a $1.5 million annual economic impact once fully operational. In turn, as more businesses and restaurants are drawn to downtown, the Jayhawk Theatre and TPAC will benefit. “Our theory is: A rising tide floats all boats,” Carson said. “If TPAC can book national acts, if the Jayhawk can book national acts, over time we will become a lot more credible as a destination for people from all across the Midwest. That’s what we’re really talking about — bringing outside people here, spending nights in hotels, shopping, eating, dining, drinking.” Frye acknowledges the economic effect TPAC and the Jayhawk Theatre have on the community and how they add to the downtown entertainment scene. “Every event that they have that would be ticketed generates revenue and sales tax,” he said. “They employ people who also pay taxes.”

Topekans Travis Wickham, left, and Polyana De Melo sample the chips and salsa at The Celtic Fox during the First Friday Salsa Walk in May. [EMILY DESHAZER/SPECIAL TO THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

Downtown nightlife becoming re-energized Schultz: ‘It’s getting harder to be a naysayer’ By Jan Biles jbiles@cjonline.com

Suki Willison, who says she’s been in the “bar business” for at least 45 years, remembers when Topeka’s downtown clubs offered a variety of music — disco, country, rock — with customers paying a cover charge to enter. “That has dwindled. I don’t know what happened,” said Willison, manager and booking agent for Uncle Bo’s Blues Bar, 420 S.E. 6th Ave. “But I see it coming back.” This time around, nightlife in the capital city has embraced diversity, welcoming an array of music genres, comedy shows, hip-hop poetry slams and specialty acts, such as the crowd-pleasing Dueling Pianos. “With all the new things happening downtown, we’re hoping there will be live entertainment at other places,” Willison said. “It’s not just my old generation, but the young generation is pushing to get things going around town.” Chris Schultz, coowner of The Break Room, at 911 S. Kansas Ave., says the debut of The Pennant and the soon-to-be openings of the Cyrus Hotel, The Brew Bank and G’s Cheesecake and More have created a shift in attitude toward downtown Topeka. “It’s getting harder to be a naysayer about downtown,” he said. The Break Room, known for the local and touring comedians who step onto its stage on the first and third Friday nights of the month, is revitalizing its technology by installing a new video system that will have the capability to broadcast live from the facility to private or public audiences around the world. Michelle CuevasStubblefield, vice president of Downtown Topeka Inc. and executive director of the Leadership Greater Topeka program/Greater Topeka Partnership, already sees a surge in entertainment options in downtown Topeka. “There are a lot of

great people investing in delivering a variety of great entertainment in downtown Topeka — theater, cult movies, comedy, amazing music from multiple genres, to hanging out with friends and playing retro video games,” Stubblefield said. “People are rediscovering new energy for nightlife and entertainment in downtown Topeka, and it is really exciting.” Call niche editor Jan Biles at (785) 295-1292.

Comedian Rod Reyes makes a face while delivering his routine at The Break Room in downtown Topeka. [EMILY DESHAZER/SPECIAL TO THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]


Sunday, June 17, 2018  C7

RIGHT: The Wood Valley Pickers recently performed at The Classic Bean in downtown Topeka. From left are Melanie Dicks-Pritchard, Dan McNeff, Patricia Gleue, Shirley Wittebort and Russ Ostermann. [REX WOLF/SPECIAL TO THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

Cottin Tyner, left, and Kory Bottenberg calculate the direction of a ball before sending it down a bowling alley at The Pennant. [REX WOLF/SPECIAL TO THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

DOWNTOWN LIVE ENTERTAINMENT

traditional Irish pub has a reputation for Guinness and Reuben sandwiches. Phone: (785) 235-2138 Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday; noon to 2 a.m. Saturday Info: thecelticfox.com

Uncle Bo’s Blues Bar Lower level, Ramada Topeka Downtown Hotel and Convention Center, 420 S.E. 6th Ave. The 21-and-older bar features a range of blues and blues-influenced acts, from contemporary blues singer Samantha Fish to the multitalented Phantom Blues Band to guitarist Paul Nelson. Uncle Bo’s also is a keeper of Topeka’s past: Its floor is made of old cobblestone from the city’s streets, and the stained glass, bar and some of the woodwork were salvaged from the old governor’s mansion. Phone: (785) 234-4317 Hours: Open at 6:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday; music from 8 p.m. to midnight Info: unclebos.com

The Break Room 911 S. Kansas Ave. With a seating capacity of about 60, The Break Room provides a venue that is intimate yet equipped with interactive technology that can broadcast events

The Pennant

Orphan Jon and the Abandoned perform in late April at Uncle Bo’s Blues Bar in downtown Topeka. [REX WOLF/SPECIAL TO THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL] throughout the world. In addition to comedy shows twice a month, the venue is home to fundraisers for Topeka Pride and shows staged by Auburn Community Theatre. The Break Room also can be booked for private parties and events. Email: smanagementllc@ gmail.com Hours: TopCity Comedy at 8 p.m. on first and third Fridays of month Info: breakroomdowntown. com

The Classic Bean 722 S. Kansas Ave. The first restaurant in downtown Topeka to offer outdoor seating, The Classic Bean’s menu features European-style coffee and espresso drinks, a full-service bar and composer-named sandwiches, appetizers, salads and pasta dishes. Check out its website to see what live musical performances are on tap and what local art is hanging on its walls. Phone: (785) 232-1001 Hours: 6:45 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Monday-Friday; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday Info: classicbean.com

The Celtic Fox Irish Pub and Restaurant

118 S.W. 8th Ave. The Celtic Fox welcomes a variety of musical acts to its outdoor stage during its Second Saturday Summer Concert series. Expect to see acoustic jam sessions, rock ’n’ roll and other styles that will get your feet tapping. Stop in during the First Friday Art Walk and order your favorites from the menu. The

915 S. Kansas Ave. The Pennant is all about fun. Bring a bag of quarters to play Pac-Man, Galaga or the dozens of other vintage arcade games. Go downstairs, where you can grab a ball and try your luck at four bowling alleys. Pick up a microbrew and head out to the beer garden overlooking S. Kansas Ave. Above all, don’t forget to sample the burgers and milkshakes. Phone: (785) 286-6808 Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday-Saturday Info: thepennanttopeka. com

Jayhawk Theatre 720 S.W. Jackson St. The Jayhawk Theatre’s marquee lights up the night announcing the lineup of live entertainment at the

historic venue. Downtown visitors can listen to Last Minute folk concerts or hip-hop poetry slams, see Ad Astra Theatre Ensemble productions or participate in special events like the recent mobile laser game night. See what’s coming up on its website. Phone: (785) 233-4295 Hours: Varies by event Info: jayhawktheatre.org

Topeka Performing Arts Center 214 S.E. 8th Ave. The 2,400-seat performance hall is a beacon for touring acts including Christian band Casting Crowns, comedian Ron White and perennial Christmas favorite Mannheim Steamroller. TPAC is also the site of numerous community and special events, including Gingerbread Homes for the Holidays, Grape Escape and productions by Ballet Midwest and other local dance companies. Phone: (785) 234-2787 Box office hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday Information: topekaperformingarts.org


C8  Sunday, June 17, 2018

A rendering of Iron Rail Brewing, 715 S. Kansas Ave., shows a bar, large-screen televisions and plenty of table seating. The business, with its railroad theme and industrial feel, is expected to open in the fall. [SCHWERDT DESIGN GROUP]

Craft beer businesses ready to tap into tourism market

Iron Rail to open in fall, Brew Bank next year

TOPEKA BREWERS

By Luke Ranker lranker@cjonline.com

In the craft beer industry, the attitude has long been the more, the merrier. The sentiment holds true in Topeka’s burgeoning craft beer scene. Blind Tiger Brewery & Restaurant, brewing award-winning beer since 1995, was the sole Topeka craft beer maker until Happy Basset Brewing Co. and Norsemen Brewing Co. joined in 2016. Now, a fourth small-batch brewery, Iron Rail Brewing, is scheduled to open on S. Kansas Avenue this fall, and The Brew Bank, a bar specializing in Kansas craft beers, will open next year. With the growing beer options, the obvious business question is: “Is it too much?” “No,” Jared Rudy, co-owner of Norsemen Brewing, and Jay Ives, Blind Tiger owner, said almost at the same time. The pair, along with Adam and Melissa Rosdahl and Emily Rudy, gathered recently in the back office of Norsemen Brewing, 830 N. Kansas Ave., to discuss the city’s growing beer world. The Rosdahls and Emily Rudy also are co-owners of Norsemen Brewing. Competition won’t hurt the craft brew scene in Topeka, they said. If anything, having more options will hold each brewer accountable for creating a quality product. “We’ll make sure we’re a town known for good beer,” Adam Rosdahl said. “Like people say: ‘Oh, Denver, great beer there. Oh, Seattle, great beer there.’ We want people to say, ‘Topeka, great beer there.’” Craft community To reach their branding goal, the brewers plan to continue supporting each other. When the four coowners of Norsemen Brewing set out to commercialize their homebrew hobby, Jared Rudy says, they brewed at the Blind Tiger, 417 S.W. 37th St., to get a

Adam Rosdahl and his wife, Melissa, co-owners of Norsemen Brewing Co., would like to see Topeka become known for its breweries. In Kansas, breweries had a $480 million economic impact in 2016, according to the Brewers Association. [PHOTOS BY CHRIS NEAL/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

Jay Ives, owner of Blind Tiger Brewery & Restaurant, and Jared Rudy, co-owner of Norsemen Brewing Co., enjoy a couple of brews at Norsemen Brewing Co.

feel for the larger system and learn the ropes. “I’d much rather see someone wearing a Blind Tiger T-shirt or Happy Bassett shirt drinking here or vice versa than seeing Budweiser or Coors,” Emily Rudy said. The support goes beyond sharing a beer. Obtaining supplies can be tricky for a single independent brewery, Jared Rudy says. Having multiple breweries in an area opens the door to joint purchases, distribution sharing and the possibility of such collaborative beers as Beermuda Triangle, a brew Happy Bassett, Blind Tiger and Norsemen Brewing jointly created last year. There’s plenty of market space to share, the group says, pointing to national statistics on craft breweries, which last year generated about

$26 billion. In Kansas, breweries had a $480 million economic impact in 2016, according to the Brewers Association. Last year in Kansas, 36 craft breweries were in operation for a state of roughly 2.9 million people, according to Brewers Association statistics. Neighboring Colorado, with almost twice the population, had nearly 10 times the number of breweries, or about 350. Kansas and Oklahoma, with its 27 craft beer makers, lag behind neighbors in the number of craft breweries. Nebraska had 49, and Missouri had 91 in 2017, according to Brewers Association data. Texas supported more than 250 craft breweries last year. Not all breweries are successful, Jared Rudy says. To survive, breweries need to be unique in beer and atmosphere.

Here is a list of the breweries doing business or being planned in Topeka. Three are in the downtown area: Blind Tiger Brewery & Restaurant 417 S.W. 37th St. blindtiger.com Happy Basset Brewing Co. 6044 S.W. 29th St. happybassetbrewingco. com Iron Rail Brewing 715 S. Kansas Ave. ironrailbrewing.com Norsemen Brewing Co. 830 N. Kansas Ave. norsemenbrewingco.com The Brew Bank 800 block of S. Kansas Avenue (tentative) facebook.com/ brewbanktopeka

another brewery to choose from, I think it makes Topeka more attractive,” Melissa Rosdahl said. The Brew Bank, tentatively looking at a spot in the 800 block of S. Kansas Avenue, hopes to add to that tourism. While not a brewery, the bar will feature dozens of craft beers from across Kansas. From left, Jared and Emily Rudy, co-owners of Norsemen Brewing Co., and Jay Ives, owner of Blind Tiger Brewery & Co-owners Dusty Restaurant, talk about the brewery scene in Topeka. The Snethen, Melissa Snethen capital city has three breweries now, with two more craft and Ryan Cavanaugh beer businesses coming on board by next year. came up with the concept for The Brew Bank local breweries’ survival. because they couldn’t “When it comes down access a variety of Kansas A Brewers Association to it, this is a business,” he beers at a typical bar. said. “I think if you fail, it’s study from 2014 found “Our hope is people not about competition. It’s more than 10 million people toured craft brew- will come in here, try about the business plan.” a beer and say, ‘Hey, Iron Rail partner Brent eries that year, and more I want to go check Boles agreed. He sees the than half of that group that brewery out,’” new brewery supporting came from outside the Cavanaugh said. businesses in downtown, destination. The organization reported 18 percent “Maybe that’s down the like Norsemen Brewing of craft beer drinkers visit street at (The) Iron Rail has in North Topeka. or somewhere else in “Breweries are becom- three or more out-ofing the neighborhood bar. town breweries each year. Kansas.” At 715 S. Kansas Ave., Melissa Rosdahl recalls They’re a neighborhood Iron Rail Brewing is an hangout,” Boles said. “We day trips to Lawrence, home of four craft brew- easy walk from The Brew have people now leaving Bank’s planned location. eries, and Kansas City, Topeka to try the beer in Boles says he sees The which also has a growLawrence, Manhattan, Brew Bank as a compleing beer market. Now, Kansas City. The commentary business. munity of breweries gives people are traveling to “They’re like a coffee them a reason to stay.” Topeka for beer. On a nearly daily basis, shop, serving the bevBlind Tiger serves some- erage,” he said. “We Tasting tourism one from outside the (brewers) are like the area, Ives says. Recently, roaster.” Craft beer enthusiasts often seek out local brews a man from Wisconsin who creates Viking cosContact courts and enteron vacation and even prise reporter/web editor tumes asked Norsemen plan trips around beer. Luke Ranker at (785) 295Brewing if he could stop Drawing beer drinkers 1270, @lrankerNEWS by in his Nordic attire. from outside Topeka on Twitter or facebook. “They’re already — Ives calls them “beer com/lukeranker. trekkers” — will be key to coming here, and with


Sunday, June 17, 2018  C9

Active alleyways: Reimagining unused space Areas behind downtown buildings can serve many purposes By Luke Ranker lranker@cjonline.com

The space between the historic Jayhawk Theatre and the soon-to-open Iron Rail Brewery doesn’t look like much now — a few large trash cans next to a loading dock. But Vince Frye, president and CEO of Downtown Topeka Inc., has a clear vision for what the space Frye could be. On a recent afternoon, Frye walked the alleyway behind the 700 block of S. Kansas Avenue, pointing to the unique architecture of the buildings facing the avenue and imagining lights strung between the buildings to provide a warm glow at night. The loading dock behind Jayhawk Tower, with a little work, could serve as a stage. A food truck parked off S.W. 7th Street would help create a unique environment where Iron Rail patrons could move freely into the alley for live music or enter the Jayhawk Theatre. This could be the next step in revitalizing downtown Topeka, Frye said. “I just think it could really be cool,” he said. “It’s fun to consider what could be done with this space.”

Art Alley in Rapid City, S.D., serves as a pedestrian thoroughfare between a main street and the city’s recently built downtown plaza. The exterior walls surrounding the alley have been decorated with colorful art. Over the years, the space has become an attraction on its own, pulling in thousands of pedestrians a year. [SUBMITTED]

Success in other cities The concept, called active alleyways, is simple. The oftenunderused space behind buildings is made cleaner and safer, providing additional outdoor areas for businesses or community events. The idea has worked well in cities of similar size to Topeka, such as Fort Collins, Colo., and Rapid City, S.D. Jeff Carson, president of the Jayhawk State Theatre of Kansas board of directors, has begun rallying support from the city of Topeka for the concept. He envisions the alley being used for a “dinner and a

show,” where patrons enjoy Iron Rail food and brews before going to the theater. “This dream is real,” Carson said. “Those kinds of concepts are being done in progressive cities all over the nation. They add to the quality of life all over the city.” In Rapid City, Art Alley serves as a pedestrian thoroughfare between a main street and the city’s recently built downtown plaza, said Dan Senftner, president and CEO of Destination Rapid City. Exterior walls surrounding the alley have been decorated with colorful art in what Senftner calls “controlled graffiti.” The space has become an attraction

on its own, pulling in thousands of pedestrians a year. “It’s one of the busiest spaces downtown,” he said. “People come just to see the art.” In trendy Fort Collins, active alleys have been a major part of downtown revitalization for more than a decade, said Todd Dangerfield, project manager for Fort Collins Downtown Development Authority. In 2006, the development authority and the city piloted the concept with two alleys that link Old Town Square, a pedestrian boulevard, and the city’s main street. The idea caught on, and now active alleys are part of the strategic plan

for the city’s core. Fort Collins hopes to activate more than a dozen alleyways, and in May started on the sixth and seventh. “When we first started, people couldn’t imagine spending money on a dirty alleyway,” Dangerfield said. “Once they saw what the space could be, it’s, ‘Oh, come check out what’s around this corner.’” The potential of active alleys isn’t limited to art and entertainment. Businesses and property owners have latched on to the idea, Dangerfield said. Beautifying an alley may provide surrounding buildings with additional storefront space. In some blocks, Fort Collins’ businesses have opened a back entrance to draw more people in or turned the space into outdoor seating. Other property owners have remodeled backrooms to make additional tenant space, which has increased available office and storefront offerings in the downtown, he said. “It becomes another welcome mat to draw people in,” Dangerfield said, adding some businesses have taken the lead on opening their alleyways. “They see it coming. Their alley may not be activated yet, but they’re remodeling the back of buildings and opening up space.”

drive through for parking and deliveries. Frye imagines that will be the case in Topeka: Event hosts would request a permit to close the alley, if necessary, in the same way the city allows street closures for events. Frye would like to try the concept in the alley behind the 600 or 700 block of S. Kansas Avenue. The 600 block area is wider and more open and has several points of entry. Both portions of the alley are just steps from the site of the new plaza at the northeast corner of S. Kansas Avenue and S.W. 7th, making them prime locations for side stages during music festivals. “I think it would be very festive. I could see a band playing here,” Frye said. “People stroll back and forth. It’s just a different, unique space.” This wouldn’t be the first time an alley has been used in such a way in Topeka. Three years ago, the Jazz & Food Trucks festival set up a band in the space behind the 900 block of S. Kansas Avenue. “I think that was the first time we thought, ‘Oh, we can use this space, too,’” Frye said. “I know we’ve got a lot of ideas for downtown, but I think this is something people will look back on and say, ‘This has made it better.’”

Prime locations

Contact courts and enterprise reporter/web editor Luke Ranker at (785) 2951270, @lrankerNEWS on Twitter or facebook. com/lukeranker.

In Fort Collins, the original purpose of the alley has remained. Cars are permitted to


C10  Sunday, June 17, 2018

Let’s dish: Popular eats from downtown menus Cuisine ranges from burgers to octopus

By Jessica Cole jcole@cjonline.com

Hungry daytime shoppers and those out on the town for an evening will discover in downtown Topeka a number of restaurants and a mix of cuisines — Mexican, Indian, barbecue, burgers, sandwiches and exotic dishes. Here is a sampling of downtown menus: Thai wheat wrap, Juli’s Coffee and Bistro. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

Juli’s Coffee and Bistro

BeetStrami, RowHouse Restaurant. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

RowHouse Restaurant 515 S.W. Van Buren St. Offers: Fine dining, with a menu that includes vegetarian and special diet courses Owner/executive chef: Greg Fox Chef/head cook: Anna Springer Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday; 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday; 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday- Saturday Featured dish: The vegetarian BeetStrami Sandwich layers house-cured beets, Thousand Island dressing, Havarti cheese and sauerkraut in between slices of rye bread. Served with tomato dill soup, housemade quick pickles and a salad of quinoa, dried apricots and pistachios. Price: $13; $7.50 for half sandwich Information: rowhouserestaurant.net

110 S.E. 8th Ave. Offers: Breakfast and lunch, with vegetarian and gluten-free options, coffees and teas Owner: Kelly Edkin Executive chef: Jeff Burgos Hours: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday Featured dish: The Thai wheat wrap mixes tender chicken with mixed greens, shredded cabbage, Chinese noodles, toasted almonds, sweet chili sauce, red onions and house-made Thai peanut dressing. Served with house-made pasta salad and a dill pickle. Price: $9.15 Information: juliscoffeeandbistro.com

Tacos Carne Asada, Lupita’s Mexican Restaurant. [CHRIS NEAL/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

Lupita’s Mexican Restaurant 732 S. Kansas Ave. Offers: Homemade food from family recipes and variety of beers Owner: Tomas Munoz, owner, and Luis Fernando “Fernie” Munoz, owner/operator Head chef: Karla “Cookie” Munoz Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday during summer; 3 to 6 p.m. first Sunday of the month; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. dinner Monday-Friday during winter Featured dish: Tacos Carne Asada features strips of meat with a chopped onion and cilantro relish, served on three flour or corn tortillas and salsa and sauce on the side. Price: $8.49 Information: bit.ly/CJlupita

Mahi-mahi soft tacos, Luis’ Place. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

Luis’ Place

Kraken, The White Linen. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

The White Linen 112 S.W. 6th Ave., Suite 101 Offers: Fine dining, with rare wines and beautifully prepared desserts Owners: Adam and Kasie VanDonge Executive chef: Adam VanDonge Hours: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday Featured dish: Rarely seen on menus in Kansas, fresh octopus is part of The White Linen’s eight-course tasting menu. Kraken — a dish named after a legendary sea monster — features a small portion of steamed and seared octopus with tomatoes and capers. Price: $90 per person for eight-course tasting menu Information: thewhitelinen.com

Reubenstein, The Classic Bean. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

The Classic Bean 722 S. Kansas Ave. Offers: Full menu, with coffees, teas and specialty drinks Owners: Juliann Earl, owner, and Doug Thomas, co-owner Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday Featured dish: Named for the classical musician, the Reubenstein features deli-sliced pastrami, gooey Swiss cheese, German sauerkraut and house-made Reuben sauce on toasted marbled rye. Served with a tossed salad or Mediterranean-inspired pasta salad. Boulevard Wheat beer, wines and cheesecake are also on the menu. Price: $8.29; $5.49 for half sandwich Information: classicbean.com

435 S. Kansas Ave. Offers: Choice of three different entrees with soup or salad for lunch and fourcourse dinner Owner/general manager: Luis E. Guillen Executive chef: Luis E. Guillen Hours: 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday; Friday dinner by reservation only Featured dish: Mahi-mahi soft tacos are stuffed with beer-battered mahi-mahi, or dolphinfish, tangy avocado salsa and mango-habanero aioli. The tacos are served with congris (black beans and rice) and fried sweet plantains. Price: $13 Information: bit.ly/CJluis

THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

The Pennant 915 S. Kansas Ave. Offers: Hamburgers, milkshakes and other food, along with bowling and an arcade Owner: Cody Foster Executive chef: Pedro Concepcion Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight MondayThursday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday-Saturday Featured dish: The Big Apple is a porkbelly burger with a custom-made spice blend from Moburts Inc. on a brioche bun and topped with hickory-smoked cheddar cheese, barbecue sauce and oven-baked apple chips. Served with double-batter fries topped with jalapeno cream cheese and bacon. Price: $10 Information: bit.ly/2CJpennant

HHB Sampler, HHB BBQ. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

HHB BBQ 906 S. Kansas Ave. Offers: Daily specials, with full bar and homemade desserts Owners: Eddie and Julia Moege Pit master: Eddie Moege Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday Featured dish: The HHB Sampler is a bigseller. The platter features two pork ribs, six wings and three pulled pork sliders. Homemade barbecue sauces — original HHB, a spicy sauce; Cuz’n Terry’s Carolina Tangy and Spicy sauce; 666, a hot sauce — can be added to any meal. Price: $15 Information: hhbbbq.com

Tower Club, Top of the Tower Club. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

Top of the Tower Club 534 S. Kansas Ave., No. 1430 Offers: Daily menu specials, with bar Head chef: Miguel Lopez Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday; 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday; 5:30 to 9 p.m. Friday-Saturday (reservations requested) Featured dish: The Tower Club features wheat bread stacked double high, with ham, smoked turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and provolone cheese between the slices. Served with homemade potato chips and homemade chipotle ranch. Price: $15 Information: topoftopeka.com

The Big Apple, The Pennant. [CHRIS NEAL/

Chicken Tandoori, Globe Indian Cuisine. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

Globe Indian Cuisine 117 S.E. 10th Ave., in Quincy Plaza Offers: Homemade Indian cuisine, with lunch specials and buffet, and vegetarian and vegan dishes Owners: Amarpreet “Latti” Singh and Tirath Kaur Executive chef: Amarpreet “Latti” Singh Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday Featured dish: Chicken Tandoori is tender pieces of chicken that have been marinated in a spicy yogurt and then roasted on skewers in a tandoor. Served with aromatic Basmati rice. Price: $15.95 Information: globeindiancuisinerestaurant. com

Beef enchiladas, Arturo’s Mexican Restaurant. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITALJOURNAL]

Arturo’s Mexican Restaurant 105 S.E. 10th Ave., Suite A Offers: Authentic Mexican food in a casual setting Owner: Gonzalo Lopez Executive chefs: Arturo Lopez and Marta Martinez Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday Featured dish: One of the favorite dishes at the locally owned Mexican restaurant is the homemade beef enchiladas — corn tortillas filled with meat, enchilada sauce and melted cheese. Served with Spanish rice and refried beans. Price: $9.50 Information: bit.ly/CJarthuro

Contact features writer Jessica Cole at (785) 295-5628.


Sunday, June 17, 2018  C11

Events draw folks to downtown year-round Many of the exciting activities are free By Jessica Cole jcole@cjonline.com

Who says there’s nothing to do in downtown Topeka? Plenty of events — mostly free — are going on throughout the year. “We’re able to do that because of the sponsorships that we’re able to secure, and the support that we have from downtown through the many people that are engaged in the growth and revitalization that’s happening,” said Vince Frye, president and CEO of Downtown Topeka Inc. Larger attendance is anticipated this year for Chocolate After Dark, which was introduced by Visit Topeka last year. The event, at the Dillon House, accompanies the Chocolate Festival. “I would imagine that we will have a few more people that would be interested, because they might have heard about it now, and they’re trusting that their friends had a good time. So they’re willing now to take the risk to come out,” said Rosa Cavazos, director of events at Visit Topeka. A new event, Rock & Food Trucks, will be introduced July 28. Returning events include the Capital City Family & Food Truck Festival, Tap That Topeka, Second Saturday Concert Series at The Celtic Fox, Brown Bag Concerts and the Kansas Chocolate Festival. Tap That Topeka, which features dozens of beer brewers, sold out in

A festivalgoer takes a bite of curly fries topped with cheese sauce during the Jazz & Food Truck Festival in downtown Topeka. [PHOTO BY STEPHEN SMITH]

2013, the first year of the event, with 2,000 tickets offered. This year, there will be 3,000 tickets, more brewers and more Kansas beers to sample. Tickets for the June 23 event are $25 for general admission, $65 for VIP reserve and $10 for designated drivers. Downtown Topeka Inc. has scheduled Cruisin’ the Capitol for Aug. 11. Last year’s car show featured more than 450 cars. “It was a beautiful night. You couldn’t have asked for better weather around the Capitol,” said Michelle CuevasStubblefield, vice president of Downtown Topeka Inc. “Our events benefit from having the Capitol as a backdrop. I mean that is really very unique, and we’re very blessed to have something that special in downtown,” Frye said. Since its introduction four years ago, attendance at one event — Capital City Family & Food Truck Festival — has grown by

approximately 10,000 people. The festival originally was in Gage Park but moved downtown last year. “(The festival) started with about 10,000 people, and then we’ve grown that to almost 20,000 now, so that’s pretty cool in three years,” Cavazos said. The Kansas Chocolate Festival in September had 25,000 attendees, and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade also had a good turnout. TouchA-Truck, a family event in September, brought an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 people to downtown. Tacos y Tequila will feature 2017 Grammy Award-winning Flor de Toloache, an all-female Mariachi band. Tickets for the Sept. 15 concert are $15 and will be available at the Topeka Performing Arts Center. “I’ve tried to book them for the past two years, and they’ve been booked. We finally got them,” Cavazos said.

Jazz & Food Trucks has been moved up on the calendar this year to Sept. 22. “This will be the fourth year for this festival, and we had 7,000 people for it last year,” Frye said. “I think the jazz fest has been so popular, not only because it’s free, but because it brings everybody out into the community — all gathering together to enjoy music in a really comfortable setting. People bring their lawn chairs. There’s food trucks, and you’ll see kids playing with one another in the pocket parks. You’ll see friends who maybe haven’t seen each other, and it’s just a gathering of just great conversation and community fellowship,” CuevasStubblefield said. With Topeka Metro taking on the event, Cyclovia has been renamed the Great Topeka Bike Fest and moved to a later date in September. Cavazos says the

A leprechaun engages with the crowd during the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Topeka. [2013 FILE PHOTO/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

community and visitors to Topeka seem to really enjoy the downtown events. “I think they’re excited about it, and we have a lot of vendors and food trucks that are wanting to be a part of our events. I think they’re excited about anything that we have going on downtown,” she said. The economic impact of the downtown events and festivals is felt by businesses when residents and visitors to the city buy food from food trucks, stay at hotels, buy items from merchants and gas up their vehicles. “The biggest stat that we look at is one of goodwill and changing the perception of improving what people think of Topeka and trying to eliminate that negativity,” CuevasStubblefield said. The feedback received by Visit Topeka from festival goers helps with adjusting aspects of the events, such as increasing the number of

restrooms and the placement of food trucks. “We do get requests for (additional) events. Sometimes, it’s logistically hard to put them on. It’s just not quite possible,” she said. “It’s difficult to find a free weekend to put something on. People have started to create their own events and do not want to step on other people’s toes.” For information about downtown Topeka events, go to visittopeka. com and sign up for the newsletter or look up events at Topeka365. com or downtowntopekainc.com. For tickets, visit CitySpin.com/ northeastkansas. For information on how to be a vendor or sponsor, contact Cavazos, rosa@visittopeka.com, or Kim Redeker, kim.redeker@ topekapartnership.com, or call (785) 234-1030. Contact features writer Jessica Cole at (785) 295-5628.


C12  Sunday, June 17, 2018


Sunday, June 17, 2018  C13

Class in session at downtown businesses Options range from chocolate making to makerspace

By Jessica Cole

David Corr, equipment manager and trainer at 712 Innovations, uses a 3-D printer to make a plastic skull. Corr says membership to the makerspace/ cowork space allows individuals age 18 and older to have access round-the-clock to the facility and its equipment.

jcole@cjonline.com

Topekans looking for a creative outlet or new educational activity can find plenty of opportunities at downtown businesses. Several stores — and a makerspace — offer classes and other events to pique one’s interest. Artistic skills Even though Leaping Llamas Artisan Shop is fairly new to the downtown scene, the business has several classes patrons can participate in each month. “There are a wide range of classes that we offer,” said owner Alicia VanWalleghem. “A lot of the artists that show their work here also teach. Each week is different, it seems like. We have outside teachers, and I teach about half the classes as well.” The shop, 725 S. Kansas Ave., will celebrate its second anniversary in August. Its name came to VanWalleghem after she took a trip with a friend to Peru, where they went on a hike and saw an abundance of llamas. Individuals can participate in the artistic activities at Leaping Llamas by pre-registering at its website. Events also can be found on its Facebook page. “We have something for everyone,” she said. “A lot of people think they’re not creative if they don’t draw or paint. We offer very little of those classes, because creativity is more than that.” Summer children’s camps begin in June and incorporate large-scale projects and creative field trips to downtown businesses. The cost for activities, based on materials, are $35 and higher for adults and $15 or $20 for children. Fees can be paid during the online pre-registration. Leaping Llamas has an upstairs classroom that seats 10 and a basement area that seats eight. Classes also move outside. “We say that’s ‘Art on the Avenue,’” VanWalleghem said. Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday (later for pre-registered classes); 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday Information: leapingllamas.com; (785) 246-6890

[CHRIS NEAL/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

Mary Jo Struttman, co-owner of Moburts Inc., explains how people can learn about the flavor of new spices and spice combinations by adding them to small batches of bland foods, like potatoes. Struttman gave the tip during the store’s Spices and Herbs 101 class in early May. [EMILY DESHAZER/SPECIAL TO THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

website under the “shopping” tab. Fees are $12 for bark parties, $18 for apple decorating and $35 for the chocolate-pairing class. “We let people be creative with the bark and the apples,” Terry Xidis said. “Sometimes, they come up with ideas that I might steal.” Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday-Saturday Information: hazelhillchocolate.com; (785) 215-8883 Cooking classes

Moburts Inc. got its start 10 years ago at the Downtown Topeka Terry and Nick Xidis, Farmers Market and is owners of Hazel Hill celebrating its third year Chocolate, 724 S. Kansas at 820 S. Kansas Ave. Ave., have been making Owners Al and MaryJo sweet treats in downStruttman started the town Topeka for 13 years. business because of their They’ve also been offer- daughter’s food allergies. ing chocolate lovers a Moburts has grown into chance to experience the a successful spices-andcandy-making process. more store that caters Parties that focus on to local restaurants, making chocolate bark or barbecue pit masters and decorating apples with those who enjoy cooking different toppings can be and trying new ways to booked. A craft chocoflavor food. late class offers patrons “Our cooking classes the experience of tasting help improve their chocolate when paired cooking skills and with spices, flavored oils, expand their palates,” Al balsamic vinegars, fruit, Struttman said. “(We) cheeses and other foods. introduce them to how Classes and events can to use the different be found on the shop’s ingredients — whether Sweet inspiration

it’s the olive oils, the vinegars, the different spices — how to season if they want to put heat in something, how to do it properly, just how to make different dishes.” The Struttmans offer classes focused on pies, salsa and how to use olive oils and vinegars for flavorful salads. “All classes have been selling out,” he said. “Topekans are just looking for something to do.” To sign up for the classes, call or stop by the store. Class information is available on its Facebook page. The cost of the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and spices classes range from $15 to $30 each. The classes are limited to 25 people. Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday Information: facebook. com/YourSpiceStore; (785) 806-3025 Glass creations Kymm Ledbetter’s passion for making fused-glass items started in the basement of her home and has grown into Prairie Glass Studio, a business that’s been at 110 S.E. 8th Ave. for six years. “We do all fused glass. We cut with pliers, and

From left, employees Yolanda Del Real and Kelsey Wasinger and co-owner Terry Xidis taste a recently made chocolate treat at Hazel Hill Chocolate. The business offers classes on making chocolate bark, decorating apples and pairing chocolate with other foods. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

kiln, and the finished product is ready in about one to two weeks,” Ledbetter said. “We can make about everything, from earrings to ornaments and specialty items.” Patrons can book a time to come into the shop to work on a fusedglass project. “There’s not a class schedule. It’s just call when you want to come in with someone,” she said. Some of the easy projects, Ledbetter says, are salt-and-pepper shakers, a 4-by-4-inch dish, oil bottles and jewelry, which can be done within 45 minutes at a cost of $30 or less. Bookings are for two hours; participants can bring in food, drinks and utensils at no charge. Ledbetter says bookings can range from birthday parties to wedding showers to a ladies’ night out or a team-building session with pizza and beer. A booked event can have up to 30 people and still feel comfortable in the shop. Participants should be 6 years old or older. “It’s easier if everyone makes the same thing. It’s a lot easier to give (them) help, so everyone feels good about what

they made,” she said. “You really can’t fail here. You just learn.” Hours: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday (later by reservation) Information: prairieglassart.com; (785) 271-8006

includes an electronics bench, textiles workshop, media lab, soldering bench, fabrication lab and wood and machine shop. Members can bring in guests and have private or public classes or events to teach skills to others. Public classes include Innovative space audio production workshops, which focus on 712 Innovations is a different music promakerspace/cowork duction software and space and small-business hardware, and guest incubator, where entreproducers and musicians preneurs and others sharing their processes, pursue creative ideas, and a hands-on introproducts and business duction to Solidworks. opportunities. A monthly, membersThe business, at 712 only 1 Million Cups S. Kansas Ave., is in its Topeka presentation fourth year. allows entrepreneurs and “We’ve learned a lot new business owners to in the process of opentalk about the successes, ing this and determining difficulties and failwhat it takes to run one ures they’ve had and to of these,” said David answer questions. Corr, 712 Innovations Individual memberequipment manager and ship rates start at $50 per trainer. month; a family memMembership allows bership is $75 per month. individuals age 18 and Student discounts are older to have access available. Membership round-the-clock to the also requires an applicafacility and its equiption and fee. Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ment. Children are Monday-Friday; other allowed if accompanied times by appointment by an adult. Information: 712inno“People are here all hours of the night,” Corr vations.com; (785) 783-8062 said. Members learn, build and create different proj- Contact features writer Jessica Cole ects based on their skill at (785) 295-5628. level. The makerspace


C14  Sunday, June 17, 2018

Business owners, law enforcement team up as downtown grows Officers considering new technology to enhance safety By Phil Anderson phil.anderson@cjonline.com

As downtown Topeka begins to blossom, local business leaders and law enforcement agencies are working together on the front end to keep the area safe and appealing. Topeka Police Chief Bill Cochran said downtown is one of the city's safest areas. Cochran said that fact isn't lost on business owners, who want to make sure that safety trend continues well into the future. To that end, Cochran said, efforts already are in place to step up the police presence in downtown Topeka. This will take shape in a variety of ways, Cochran said, and will include officers on foot, bicycles, Segways and patrol cars. Additionally, technology — including video cameras located atop street light poles — are being considered as a way of helping officers monitor crowds and adjust manpower as needed to ensure safety. Cochran said it wasn't a case of "Big Brother" keeping an eye on what people are doing, but rather using technology to make real-time adjustments, particularly during times of large crowds. Already, Topeka police

have visited Wichita and Kansas City, where major rebirths have occurred in downtown areas, to learn what is being done to ensure public safety. Cochran said not everything that goes on in one city will translate to another, but ideas can be gleaned and certain safety practices can be tailored to Topeka. Cochran said he is thrilled with the cooperation that has been taking place between downtown business owners and local law enforcement agencies. He said Topeka police officers sit on several boards actively involved in downtown redevelopment. If people feel safe coming to downtown Topeka, then they will be more inclined to come to the area. And the more people who come downtown for shopping, dining or entertainment, the more likely it is that the area will flourish. Cochran said more officers are patrolling downtown late into the night and early-morning hours, as some businesses are staying open for longer periods of time. That will continue, he said, and police will continue to be engaged with downtown business owners to monitor their needs and take action accordingly. Vince Frye, president and chief executive officer of Downtown Topeka Inc., said he couldn't be

Topeka police officer Mitch Soden, right, shows off the new Segway purchased by the Downtown Topeka Business Improvement District for the Topeka Police Department. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

happier with the cooperation and collaboration he is seeing between local law enforcement agencies and the downtown business community. Frye noted that not only are the Topeka Police Department and Shawnee County Sheriff's Office downtown, but so are the Kansas Highway Patrol and Capitol Police. Frye said he was excited that police have followed through already on some of the suggestions the downtown business community has made regarding public

safety. As an example, Frye said, the police department is in the process of updating its aging fleet of Segways for officers to use downtown. To that end, Downtown Topeka Inc. bought the first of the new Segway units and presented it to police in early May. Frye also said he was grateful for the police involvement in several organizations — including one for Momentum 2022 — that are designed to see Topeka prosper, not only now but in the years to come.

Topeka Police Chief Bill Cochran, left, and Vince Frye, president and CEO of Downtown Topeka Inc., are working in collaboration to help ensure safety downtown. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]


Sunday, June 17, 2018  C15


C16  Sunday, June 17, 2018


Sunday, June 17, 2018  D1

DOWNTOWN: ITS TIME IS NOW SECTION 4 OF 4: ETC.

A rendering of the proposed Top City Plaza shows an overhead view of the downtown site, which will serve as a community gathering place. The design for the plaza incorporates elements of nature. [HTK ARCHITECTS]

Plaza planning: Creating a new outdoor venue Top City Plaza expected to be open by 2020

I

By Luke Ranker • lranker@cjonline.com

n Tucson, Ariz., a revitalized plaza has made a “night and day” difference to the city’s core. A Rapid City, S.D., parking lot-turned-square breathes new life in the frontier town’s downtown. Without a central, open gathering place, leaders in both cities say their downtowns would remain in limbo between bustling and boring. “It’s by far the best thing that’s ever happened to downtown Rapid City,” said Dan Senftner, president and CEO of Destination Rapid City, of the city’s Main Street Square. That energy and confidence in a downtown open space has been echoed in Topeka from backers of a central plaza. Once a vague idea, Top City Plaza in the northeast corner of 7th and S. Kansas Avenue will be a reality as soon as 2020.

See PLANNING, D11

Three buildings currently occupy the space designated for Top City Plaza at the northeast corner of 7th and S. Kansas Avenue. Groundbreaking for the plaza is expected to take place as soon as the weather permits in early 2019. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

A rendering of the proposed Top City Plaza shows the downtown plaza from S. Kansas Avenue. [HTK ARCHITECTS]


D2  Sunday, June 17, 2018

RISING LEADERS KARL FUNDENBERGER

Getting around downtown on two wheels By Katie Moore katie.moore@cjonline.com

Karl Fundenberger, director of bicycle operations for Topeka Metro, said going for a bike ride in downtown Topeka is a particularly convenient way to get from point A to point B. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

Infrastructure has been an essential component of revitalization efforts, and Karl Fundenberger has worked to ensure cycling is an accessible option for downtown employees and visitors. As director of Topeka Metro’s biking program, Fundenberger has had a hand in the program’s growth. Since its launch in 2015, bike share riders have peddled more than 50,000 miles, burning more than a million calories in the process. On June 29 during a launch at Capitol Federal’s downtown branch, Topeka Metro will roll out 200 new bikes. Topeka Metro also is adding about 40 more bike share locations to make nearly 200 total across the capital city. Fundenberger said biking downtown is particularly convenient. Though it

may not be a primary mode of transportation, he said pedaling can fill gaps to get from point A to B or B to C. “Downtown has a great mix of transportation choices, and that’s really why the bike share program is such a good fit,” he said. “With the downtown redesign, that street is more comfortable for biking, and there are a lot more bike racks — so not only is it easier to ride, it’s easier to park closer to where you need to go.” Fundenberger said biking is an active mode of transportation that even on short trips, results in positive health outcomes. It’s also more environmentally friendly. The Great Topeka Bike Fest (previously Cyclovia) will be Sunday, Sept. 30, on S.W. Jackson Street in view of the Kansas Statehouse. September’s festival is slated to feature more races and a professional BMX freestyle stunt team.

T YS O N W I L L I A M S

Growing the arts, supporting diversity on GO Topeka’s Entrepreneurial and Minority Business Development council, where he has helped choose scholTyson Williams’ vision about down- arships for startups and participated town Topeka’s potential is influenced in business development workshops. by the years he spent in Minneapolis, “I felt like I needed to get involved where there was a “buffet” of arts and in what was happening in Topeka, entertainment options downtown. especially what was happenWilliams returned to Kansas ing downtown,” he said. “I think in 2015 after his family estabthat the council really can be one lished Peaceful Rest, a funeral or more of the legs to the table.” chapel at 401 S.W. Harrison. Williams said it is important to Though the arts were lacking, include a variety of voices conWilliams said he realized it was an tributing to the vision of the city’s opportunity. Williams, who has a future, including minorities, the background in piano performance and LGBTQ community and people of music composition, created a producall ages. That means groups need tion company. Its second show, “The to get organized and communiMisfits’ Revenge,” will debut in August cate whether that’s through social at White Concert Hall. The productions media or town halls, he said. are “real-life family dramas,” he said. “I think there’s ways in which “The arts and entertainment that’s done on a smaller level and all of that have really been around the city or even in downmy passion,” Williams said. town, but I think so much more can Last year, Williams was asked to be happen – it needs to,” he said. By Katie Moore

katie.moore@cjonline.com

Tyson Williams serves on GO Topeka’s Entrepreneurial and Minority Business Development council. He also works for Peaceful Rest, his family’s funeral chapel in downtown Topeka, and runs a production company. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

ASHLEE SPRING

Planning a future By Peyton Kraus pkraus@cjonline.com

Ashlee Spring, corporate events manager for the Greater Topeka Partnership, said she is excited for the many festivals taking place this summer in downtown Topeka. [CHRIS NEAL/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

Most Topekans have experienced the many events going on each week downtown, but few can say they have been behind the scenes of making them happen. “It’s crazy. Every day is different,” said Ashlee Spring, corporate events manager for the Greater Topeka Partnership. The native Topekan knew she wanted to be an events coordinator after graduating from the University of Kansas in 2015. After living and working in Kansas City, she jumped at the chance to move back to Topeka when her current job opened up about a year ago. “When I was in Kansas City, I always thought, ‘I could do this at home,’” Spring said. Spring grew up near Lake Shawnee

and attended as many events as she could. Now, she loves the opportunity to come back and work for some of the same events and new ones that have come to life. Spring also enjoys hiking along Lake Shawnee and the governor’s mansion trails with her Siberian husky puppy and spending time downtown. “I’ve always been a big supporter of eating local and shopping local, so definitely all the local restaurants I try to go to,” Spring said. As she celebrates a year of living and working in Topeka again, Spring is looking forward to the lengthy list of festivals in Topeka this summer, as well as the creation of the Downtown Plaza. “I’m hoping in the next couple years we’ll be working more with the events with that — and that’s just going to be even crazier — but I’m excited about that and the opportunities that come with the Downtown Plaza,” she said.

JEREMY BARNWELL

It’s a new era in downtown Topeka By Alexandra Martinez amartinez@cjonline.com

With the addition of the pocket parks downtown and other new establishments, Jeremy Barnwell, of the downtown BP, says the energy throughout downtown’s recent revitalization is unlike any time before. “The other times of momentum I think was mainly just smoke,” Barnwell said. “You know you’re going to walk down Kansas Avenue in two months, and there’s going to be some other type of work going on.” Barnwell has worked with his dad, Austin, at their BP gas station and convenience store on S.E. 6th Street for more than 20 years. They have stayed competitive by recently expanding their store, adding B'Well Market with more food and drink options for downtown employees and residents.

The new downtown momentum was a prime reason for the changes. “My mindset up here is, it’s not the fact that we’re just in a brand new building, but it’s a new era downtown, too,” Barnwell said. “Seeing with what all is going on downtown right now was kind of a little bit of a kick in the backside to a driving force to get this going a little bit more because everything is moving in that direction.” Barnwell said he and his father try to support other downtown shops in creative ways. “We’re trying to work with a few of the local businesses the best we can ourselves and trying to keep our percentage of downtown together, and trying to be that outlet also for other local businesses that aren’t open 24 hours a day that can tell their customers, ‘You can get my product at all times,' ” Barnwell said.

Downtown momentum helped prompt Jeremy Barnwell, left, and his father, Austin, to expand the BP at S.E. 6th and Quincy to add B’Well Market, offering an expanded selection of food and drinks. [CHRIS NEAL/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

For more Rising Leaders, see page D4


Sunday, June 17, 2018  D3


D4  Sunday, June 17, 2018

THAD HALSTEAD

Playing a part in downtown’s major projects By Katie Moore katie.moore@cjonline.com

After the Payless ShoeSource division where Thad Halstead had worked for 15 years was eliminated, he had the opportunity to take positions in other cities. But he and his wife wanted to stay in Topeka. “For us, we really chose to be here,” the native Topekan said. “I’m glad the opportunity with AIM came up, because that gave us a chance to stay here.” Halstead has been the marketing director for AIM Strategies for more than a year, and he has been a part of exciting developments downtown. “AIM has a lot of interest downtown,” he said, “and we’re doing a lot to try to revitalize it to kind of add to a lot of the great existing businesses that have already been here and

Rising Leaders Reception

laid the foundation for us.” The Pennant opened its doors in March. Halstead said the restaurant’s popularity has validated that demand exists, adding that they have had people from every part of town come through. “We wanted to provide a place that you could come for a variety of reasons,” Halstead said of The Pennant, which features a bowling alley and vintage arcade games. AIM also is invested in the Cyrus Hotel and a brewery, both slated to open downtown by the holidays. Being part of Momentum 2022, Halstead said he is focused on how to move downtown initiatives forward — especially in the area of quality of life. “You can sit around and wonder what could be or you can try to make it happen,” he said, “so I’m excited to work with AIM and try to make things happen down here.”

Thad Halstead is marketing director for AIM Strategies, which developed The Pennant, 915 S. Kansas Ave. Halstead said the city’s response to the restaurant shows there is a demand for downtown development. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

K A I T LY N T R U E S D E L L

A special connection to downtown Topeka

BMW of Topeka will recognize this year's Rising Leaders at a reception Thursday, July 19, at its location BMW | VW of Topeka, 3030 S.W. Topeka Blvd.

By Brianna Childers bchilders@cjonline.com

Also invited will be last year's Rising Leaders, as well as the 2016 Movers & Shakers featured in The Topeka Capital-Journal's 2016 Downtown edition and other community dignitaries. Honorees were selected for their contributions to the downtown area based on recommendations from city and business leaders.

Kaitlyn Truesdell, a recruiter for Westar Energy, said she has developed a connection to downtown Topeka since starting her job at the company. [BRIANNA CHILDERS/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

For Kaitlyn Truesdell, working downtown makes her feel more connected to the city and gives her a sense of ownership. She knows the downtown shops, and it makes going to First Fridays that much more special to her. As a recruiter for Westar Energy, Truesdell gets to be involved in the community through her job by attending outreach events and career fairs, but also through Westar as a whole, she said. “We are involved in the community, but we also want to see the community thrive,” Truesdell said. “We want to see more businesses come downtown, and if that happens, it betters everyone.” Truesdell also serves as vice president of the YWCA of Northeast Kansas board and gets to experience Topeka

by giving women and children a safe place to go to, as well as advocating for women’s and children’s rights. “It’s really cool as a young person that I can be on a board and work downtown and have all of these experiences that allow me to have meaningful interactions and also impact others,” she said. “I think a lot of young people want to feel like they are making a difference, and you can do that in Topeka.” She also would like to see entertainment become more circular so each sector — north, south, east and west — has attractions. Additionally, Truesdell said she would like to have a professional sports team or an outdoor amphitheater that would bring more visitors. “We are the capital city,” Truesdell said. “We should have this Kansas-focused feel to things but also some urban attractions.”


Sunday, June 17, 2018  D5


D6  Sunday, June 17, 2018

Riverfront offers new opportunity for downtown development Public park, hiking and cycling trail, and more possibilities for area By Tim Carpenter timothy.carpenter@cjonline.com

Larry Wolgast and Beth Fager are headed in opposite directions on the Topeka-Shawnee County Riverfront Authority but are paddling in unison with the current toward the dream of an entertainment, recreational and business hub on an eyesore section of downtown along the Kansas River. Wolgast this summer will replace Fager on the authority, which is the city-county board striving to make the area between the Kansas Avenue and Topeka Boulevard bridges the kind of reputationbuilding attraction found in other cities anchored on a waterway. Expect both, however, to continue as enthusiastic advocates for transformation of this slice of riverfront from something most people simply drive over to a destination they’ll drive to. “There are all these possibilities,” said Wolgast, a former Topeka mayor. “They’re starting to come together.” Fager, the last original member of the riverfront authority formed more than a decade ago, said the idea was to put another chess piece on the north side of the Kaw River, which includes the NOTO Arts Center and the Great Overland Station. She’s talking about a

Former Topeka Mayor Larry Wolgast will join the Topeka and Shawnee County Riverfront Authority effective July 1 to replace Beth Fager, the last remaining original member of that body. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

public park, hiking and cycling trails, an Oregon Trail river crossing site and weirs to safely raise the river level for water sports enthusiasts. There would be downtown boat ramps. Maybe a barge for fireworks or musical performances. The idea is to creatively draw people in, she said, so investors will follow with retail, mixed-use office and urban housing projects. “We’ve turned our back on it all these

years,” Fager said. “If we build it, they will come. It’s great. It puts a whole new face on use of the river in Topeka.” A study commissioned in 2005 recommended the riverfront area would come to life with pedestrian and bicycle trails, boating access points, park space and installation of a downstream weir to create a permanent river-lake. In October, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

provided a $300,000 grant to support the community’s work to clean up property in the North Topeka riverfront area. The grant supports campaigns to transform so-called brownfield areas, many of which are found in the heart of America’s downtowns and economic centers. The EPA grant helps spur repurposing of vacant or underused property and inspire economic revitalization. The U.S. Army Corps

of Engineers continues with a multimilliondollar levee project to solidify the rock and earth barriers built on both sides of the Kansas River to reduce the risk of flooding. It’s a threeyear, $29 million project to improve the city’s levee system, which protects more than $1 billion in commercial and residential assets. “Before any additional riverfront development happens, the levees have to be repaired. They have

to be brought up to standard and they have to be effective,” Fager said. In the area of the Overland Station in North Topeka, the riverfront authority and the National Park Service are eager to develop an Oregon Trail-themed park. It would allow visitors to retrace steps of early travelers who made their way across the Kansas River in Topeka. Placement of river weirs that function for recreation and aesthetic purposes means a weir relied upon to draw drinking water into the city’s system must be made safer for boaters. The intake valve system at S.W. MacVicar and S.W. Gage has imperiled the safety of people if they don’t portage on the north bank of the river. In the past, people in fishing boats, canoes and kayaks were trapped on the down-river side after going over the weir. In addition to the improved weir at the water intake, Fager said the $1.9 million project would allow for installation of a whitewater course as part of the redesign. Downstream, the authority has envisioned placing a weir near the Sardou Bridge to create the image of a lake on a river. Wolgast said there was no doubt in his mind that all the work would affirm the vision to invest in the riverfront — the place where Topeka began. “Most cities turned their back on the river and made it an industrial area,” he said.“We’re turning that around.”


Sunday, June 17, 2018  D7

Twenty years of STAR bond investment in Kansas reaps big rewards, a few flops Communities statewide forging ahead with development plans By Tim Carpenter timothy.carpenter@cjonline.com

More than half a billion dollars has been wagered by local and state government officials in Kansas on taxpayerfinanced economic development projects under a program that relies upon adherence to the state's motto — to the stars through difficulties. The sale of State Tax Revenue bonds — also known as STAR bonds — grant municipal governments an opportunity to finance major commercial, entertainment and tourism areas and repay the debt with state and local sales tax revenue generated by the developments. There have been failures and successes since implemented two decades ago. For scope of achievement on the STAR bond landscape, look no further than the Kansas Speedway and the Village West shopping complex outside Kansas City, Kan. It's a flashy show-me example of the inducement as a platform for business growth and job development. Bonds used to finance Village West were paid off in 2016 — five years early. The retail and entertainment hub created 5,700 jobs at more than 100 businesses.

“It was a very successful tool,” said Pat Pettey, who has watched evolution of the state’s No. 1 tourist attraction as a member of state and municipal government. "For us, at the beginning, given where we were at that time, it was great for attracting businesses.” Just as easily, the promise of a STAR bond development can burn out prematurely. In Overland Park, the Museum at Prairiefire, part of a retail development, gobbled up onethird of $65 million in STAR bond investment capital. The museum, which has a dinosaur as the star attraction, operated at a $2 million loss in 2015 and 2016 — and floundered in red ink during 2017. Another bump on the STAR bond highway was the Heartland Park Topeka motorsports complex that was foreclosed in 2015, unsuccessfully sought new STAR bond financing and has reopened under new management. The tragic death in 2016 of a 10-year-old boy on a giant water slide at the Schlitterbahn park in Kansas City, Kan., cast doubt about future of that STAR bond investment. Closure of the slide generated uncertainty as to whether Schlitterbahn could survive. STAR bond tax revenue was expected to repay bond debt. Mike Taylor, spokesman for the Unified

Government of Wyandotte County, said it was possible STAR bonds could be issued to support new attractions at the Schlitterbahn. Undeterred, communities across the state are optimistically plowing ahead with plans for developments crafted to revitalize downtown areas and create destination-scale projects that attract one-third of visitors from more than 100 miles away. “STAR bonds are proven to be an effective economic development tool beneficial to the state of Kansas,” said state Rep. J.R. Claeys, a Salina Republican. Salina officials are digging into the STAR bond portfolio to bring about a hotel, car museum and rehabilitation of an historic theater in the downtown. Knocking on the door is the $165 million complex in Wyandotte County for the American Royal agricultural events center. It will be transferred from Kansas City, Mo., with about $80 million from STAR bonds. “This is about creating a bright future for the American Royal … and hanging a sign in the state of Kansas that Kansas is open to agriculture,” said Korb Maxwell, an attorney with the American Royal. In Derby, state and local officials applied STAR bond financing to an $18 million dinosaur park. Garden City

STAR bonds helped finance development of the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. [MAY 2018 FILE PHOTO/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS]

STAR bonds helped finance development of the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. [MAY 2018 FILE PHOTO/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS]

is developing the Sports of the World Complex for soccer, skating, rugby and hockey on the east side of the city. It will pull down $24 million in STAR bonds. “This is a great project for our region and will go a long way toward meeting some of our community enhancement goals,” said Lona DuVall, president of the Finney County economic development corporation. A STAR bond development in Dodge City will invest $13 million in Boot Hill Museum and Heritage Center

and the Long Branch Lagoon Water Park. Atchison set out to work with STAR bonds for an aviation museum and to update the city’s farmers market. “These aren’t projects that the private market is going to do,” said Trey Cocking, deputy director of the Kansas League of Municipalities. Looking back, the Kansas Department of Commerce authorized $165 million in STAR bonds for the Kansas City Wizards stadium, $150 million for a Cerner Corp. office campus and

$65 million for a U.S. soccer training facility. In 2006 to 2009, the city of Manhattan received $50 million in STAR bonds to develop the Flint Hills Discovery Center, which brings to life the culture, heritage and natural surroundings of the tall grass prairie in Kansas. Other projects tied to the incentive were the Salt Mine Museum in Hutchinson and the Waterwalk in Wichita. In 2017, the Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback agreed to extend availability of the bond mechanism through 2022.


D8  Sunday, June 17, 2018

2016 Movers & Shakers weigh in on what’s next for downtown Topeka Several say areas off S. Kansas Avenue should receive attention By Morgan Chilson morgan.chilson@cjonline.com

Marks of construction line the downtown Topeka streets, clearly showing projects in progress. Other ideas are in the planning stages, such as the Top City Plaza, and it will be some time before they change the area’s landscape. But it’s never too soon to think about what’s next. The Topeka Capital-Journal reached out to some of the people who were tapped as Movers & Shakers in the first downtown section done in 2016. Here is what they are dreaming about. Lisa Stubbs This former city councilwoman is active in revitalizing the downtown, and she’s an investor, living in a building she owns. “I think the next big thing for downtown must be the Plaza that is hopefully moving forward soon. It will provide the outdoor gathering place with the cool aesthetics that we need. I am confident that this will help grow the number of businesses downtown and help create that ‘cool’ vibe that people want to be around. As for the future big things, I think we do need to make our riverfront special with water activities, restaurants, parks, hiking trails etc. And we need to get more people living downtown! There are still lots of empty buildings and upper floors of buildings that would make great loft apartments. “We love living downtown and the one-of-a-kind space that we created.” Chris Meinhardt An architect, Meinhardt has spurred work on Constitution Hall and is active with Friends of the Free State Capitol. “A communitysponsored urban design plan showing ways to best connect the downtown with the Kansas riverfront would surely support private and public interests for highquality 21st century development. Rehabilitation of the Old Federal Building and completion of the restoration of Constitution Hall are anchor projects between the state Capitol and the riverfront.” Neil Dobler As vice president at Bartlett & West and in a former position for the city of Topeka, Neil Dobler was involved with the city’s downtown infrastructure update. “In my mind, the next critical step, after getting some nice amenities in place like Kansas Avenue and the Plaza, is to begin redevelopment

of the areas around the downtown for residential use. Just a couple of blocks southeast of the new Cyrus Hotel are several square blocks of mostly vacant lots and little-used parking lots. There are other areas like this radiating in all directions away from the downtown core. We need incentives, like TIF districts, to entice developers to begins creating residential communities that attract the folks that work in downtown Topeka, many of whom drive into downtown every day from communities east of Topeka. In addition, we need grocery stores and other essential businesses that sustain a growing residential community. As a good example, Des Moines’ city government, in cooperation with their Chamber and economic development groups, set a specific goal of increasing downtown living. Their goal was to create a “24-7 downtown community.” Over the last 10 years, they have made tremendous strides. “So, my practical goal would be redevelopment of four to six square blocks of downtown to a residential community via a TIF district and other incentives established by the city of Topeka. “My big dream would be a real 24-7 residential community, on all sides of the downtown core, that consistently draws new residents to Topeka.” Joan Wagnon A former mayor of Topeka, Wagnon has a lifetime of local, community service, much of which has impacted the downtown area. “The “next big thing”— the Downtown Plaza — appears to be taking shape. For the last two years, I have been heavily involved with the Rotary Freedom Festival in Downtown Topeka. We have spent close to $8,000 to rent a stage and sound equipment, portapotties and barricades to close streets just to hold a one-day festival. That doesn’t count the music. When you think of all the downtown events currently being planned, this addition of a downtown plaza will save organizations a great deal of money to use for other things. To me, that means bigger and better events, which improve the quality of life in Topeka. “One of the parts of the Rotary Freedom Festival has been a Pop-up Park on the Kansas River. If I really dream big, the development of the riverfront is the thing that would truly transform Topeka. When I was mayor, we tried to develop a Millennium Park on the river, but too many obstacles kept it from happening. The creation of the Riverfront Authority has been a help; redoing the weir on the river is essential to development — and a big pot of money. The possibilities with river development will see NOTO grow by leaps and bounds, and the entire city will surge ahead. That’s the big dream.” Larry Wolgast Under Wolgast’s leadership as mayor, downtown Topeka transformed with significant infrastructure changes, among many accomplishments. “I think the plaza is the big thing, and that’s going to take a lot of effort. We have to raise some funds, so that’s going to take a while. I believe we should only take on what’s reasonable. It’s so easy to get caught up — we’ve had success, now let’s take on two or

three different projects at a time. “We have to stay focused, and give all attention to the next step that we’re taking. If everything goes well, we can be ready to start onto another project. To get the organization going, the scheduling of the events, planning and all of that, are some big steps. We looked at it in other cities, and that’s what they say. Those first couple of years can be challenging. You want to make it go right. It’s going to be a bit. “I think associated with that, but at the same time, is more events, festivals. We’re getting a tremendous response to those that we’re having right now, but they take work. It takes organization.” Mark Burenheide As an investor, Burenheide is known for the lofts he’s created that encourage residential living downtown. “I think the thing that is so exciting about downtown right now is that so many people in the community are recognizing the value of downtown and the importance of having an exciting, vibrant downtown to attract and retain young professionals. While local leaders and chamber officials have been preaching this idea for a while, the general population is now excited about downtown and what is happening there. Downtown is now seen as a success, and people want to be a part of that success. That success will propel future projects like the Top City Plaza. “So far the redevelopment has been targeted on the area between 6th and 10th on Kansas Avenue. With that area coming on strong, it will be exciting to see what other areas start to blossom, including the riverfront, the Van Buren corridor and possibly the area around the Water Tower. We will need to build some “people” attractions that will attract people to one of these areas, possibly a sports complex of some type, large housing development, IMAX theater or movie theater complex. These types of development will make those areas a destination that will further drive development on and off of Kansas Avenue.” Jim Parrish As a longtime downtown supporter, Parrish owns the Ramada Hotel and Convention Center and the Jayhawk Tower. “I began my investing in downtown decades ago. It wasn’t until recent years with Downtown Topeka Inc. and the Downtown Topeka Foundation really began forcing changes to happen. Recently, with the investment by Cody Foster and Jim Klausman, and others who have started investing and causing those real estate values to come up, there is real promise. “The next big thing — someone may come and build an office tower or a ball diamond, or the riverfront development may take off. The palpable, realistic next thing is this plaza. There’s funds in the bank, the land’s been acquired, plans have been developed. Having that, plus occupied businesses plus the new hotel, will, I think, encourage maybe that ball diamond. “It’s such a positive and exhilarating feeling to look and see that these things are happening from the standpoint of somebody who started here (the Jayhawk Tower) in ‘85, came to Topeka with Nancy in ‘70, to go to law school.”


Sunday, June 17, 2018  D9


D10  Sunday, June 17, 2018

Downtown revitalization affecting office lease rates Activity ‘creates a good buzz,’ real estate agent says

Spotlight on downtown Topeka lease rates 709 S. Kansas Ave.: $10-12 per square foot 115 S.E. 6th Ave.: $5.74 per square foot 222 S.W. 7th St.: $13 per square foot 901 S. Kansas Ave.: $14 per square foot 720 S. Kansas Ave.: $18 per square foot

By Morgan Chilson morgan.chilson@cjonline.com

The excitement around downtown Topeka’s revitalization — and seeing cars lining the streets in the evenings — isn’t just a feel-good boost. The goal of rebuilding the capital city’s downtown is to have an economic impact, and that’s beginning to happen. The story, at least so far, said Mike Morse, with KS Commercial, isn’t about increasing lease rates for office space. Yes, they’re going up, but at a slow and steady pace. “We’re probably seeing a good 10 to 20 percent increase over two or three years,” Morse said. More important at this stage of the game than anything is the tremendous amount of increased interest in the downtown area, he said. “When I received phone calls for office space, it used to be what’s available out west,” Morse said. “But from the time of the announcement of the Cyrus (Hotel), it was what’s available downtown and what’s available out west. So it totally changed where people look.” That’s different and new, changing the game ever since the Kansas Avenue infrastructure began to reshape the downtown. “People enjoyed seeing it and seeing the progress and seeing the downtown look better,” Morse said.

Source: May 2018/KS Commercial website On the rise Renovations and new construction are driving up property values downtown. Tax Year Total Value Change% 2014 $164,216,530 2015 $191,608,120 16.7% 2016 $195,888,750 2.2% 2017 $203,256,220 3.8% 2018 $212,708,920 4.7%

Source: Shawnee County Appraiser's Office

The Topeka Tower at 534 S. Kansas is one of multiple properties downtown that have office space for lease. Although not seeing significant lease hikes yet from downtown’s revitalization, the buzz created with infrastructure work and the opening of new businesses encourages interest in leasing. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

“But everybody’s going to take the wait and see (attitude), which I understand. But when you have the hotel announced, demand has increased. People want to tour it.” Morse said he’s taking groups to see downtown office space that never would have in the past considered locating in that area. More importantly, many of them are looking for longterm leases to be able to recruit employees. “They want to be in a place where they can recruit talent,” he said. “I was showing this space today, and I show this company that’s about a 5,000- to 7,000-squarefoot user, and we looked out west and we looked

downtown. The gentleman says: ‘Mike, I believe in downtown. I want to recruit young talent. I’ve got this many this age about to retire. I have a much better chance recruiting them to come downtown than I do elsewhere.’” Tom Moses, senior vice president at Topeka’s NAI Martens, said he hasn’t seen an increase in office leasing rates. Recently, he has started to see an uptick in calls about office space in the Topeka Tower, 534 S. Kansas Ave. But that tower, one of downtown’s longtime office buildings, has stayed relatively popular through the years, he said. Still, what’s happening

downtown is a positive and makes a longterm difference. “It creates a good buzz,” Moses said. But anyone interested in buying — not leasing — along Kansas Avenue is pretty much out of luck, said Mark Rezac, another real estate agent with KS Commercial. “People have missed the boat to try to purchase a building,” he said. “That rush went on three or four years ago. Now, if someone wants to over-pay for a property, I’m sure a seller will be more than willing to sell them a building.” Off Kansas Avenue, Rezac said it seems that many owners are sitting on their properties,

waiting to see what happens downtown. “They realize the Kansas Avenue properties are going to go first, so they’re kind of biding their time,” he said. “They realize they’ve had these properties this long, why not wait a couple of more years to wait for the market to catch up to where the market is.” But buildings do become available. Listed on the KS Commercial website in late May were buildings at 501 S.W. Jackson St., for $1.4 million; 222 S.W. 7th St., for $1.5 million; and 304 S.W. Van Buren, for $185,000. Morse said the first buildings to sell downtown are those that are “cool, unique spaces” with typical downtown features, such as high ceilings and exposed brick or stone. Rezac and Morse each

pointed to the success of The Pennant, a downtown restaurant that opened in March. Rezac said he has talked to other businesses in the area of The Pennant, such as the Celtic Fox and Juli’s, and both have told them that they’re benefiting by the increased traffic. “Success is going to generate more people that desire to be around those establishments that are successful,” Rezac said. The bar will be raised even higher when the Cyrus Hotel, the Iron Rail and Brew Bank all open. “That’s where the rubber meets the road, is when business owners are making the decision to come downtown. That’s when we’re making the downtown successful,” Morse said. “We’ll always make mistakes. Get up and try again. It’s so much fun.”


Sunday, June 17, 2018  D11

PLANNING Continued from D1

‘Brand new venue’ With its massive digital screen, a splash pad that converts to an ice rink and year-round events, Kurt Young, executive director of the Topeka Lodging Association and chairman of the downtown plaza design committee, says Top City Plaza will be the downtown centerpiece that ties together the S. Kansas Avenue pocket parks. “We’re really building a brand new venue — a focal point for Topeka that will not only become the hub of dining and entertainment for Topekans but will draw people from out of town,” he said. “When people stay at our hotels or walk into our restaurants and ask ‘What’s going (on) tonight?’ people will say ‘Go to the plaza.’” The time frame for opening Top City Plaza is fluid, said Vince Frye, president and CEO of Downtown Topeka Inc. Three buildings occupy the space, and some leases run through December. Groundbreaking should happen as soon as the weather permits in the first part of 2019. The committee is shooting for opening the plaza by March 2020, before Kansas Kids Wrestling returns to the Kansas Expocentre. Young has touted the plaza as a key to drawing conventions and events to the city. “(The plaza) is one of the things we used to attract Kids Wrestling,” he said. “It’s absolutely crucial to attracting more events to Topeka (and) the Expocentre.” In the meantime, the design committee and HTK Architects are continuing to finalize the plaza’s look

Zach Snethen, director of HTK Architects, describes the features of Top City Plaza, which will be at the northeast corner of 7th and S. Kansas Avenue. The plaza is expected to be finished as soon as 2020. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

and feel. For Zach Snethen, director of HTK Architects, blending the cityscape with nature is paramount. Citygarden in St. Louis and Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, both green oases in the heart of an otherwise concrete city core, inspire Snethen. The parks balance the function of a plaza — a communal gathering place — with nature. “It’s for the big events, but it’s also for the day-to-day (life),” Snethen said. “It’s for the people who live down here and work down here.” City square success Senftner says Rapid City’s Main Street Square has been so successful for the South Dakota town that

Destination Rapid City, which manages the space, consults with cities across the country, including Topeka. The square hosts nearly 200 events each year, including winter ice skating, concerts and festivals. In 2010, the city’s downtown had quite a different feel. “We had a parking lot and porno shop,” Senftner said. “Let’s be real here. It was run-down.” Like Topeka, a group of city leaders in Rapid City spearheaded a plan to turn the parking lot into a square. The revitalization started with the businesses facing the square, but Senftner says it has grown to a five-block radius. “It’s totally revitalized our downtown,” he said, adding

that by his estimate more than $50 million has been invested since the project started. Kathleen Eriksen, CEO of Downtown Tucson Partnership, cautions that simply building a plaza isn’t enough. “Just because you have a plaza doesn’t mean you’ll automatically revitalize,” she said. “You have to have security, programming. It takes work.” Jacome Plaza, a large square in Tucson’s downtown that combines a green lawn with an urban plaza, is one of the city’s older parks. The area had become overlooked and dilapidated. The city’s homeless population began camping in the area regularly, and most downtown visitors avoided the

blocks around the plaza. Over a four-month period that wrapped up late last year, Eriksen says, the downtown partnership and the city worked with 80 people living in the park to find permanent housing and other services. Now, she estimates, the park receives hundreds of new visitors a day, and a survey of users indicates they are predominantly women and children. “It’s really uplifting for the whole community,” she said. “It’s been absolutely critical to our downtown and the quality of life. I think that’s true anywhere.” The Tucson partnership studied dozens of urban plazas and renewal projects before beginning work on Jacome Plaza. Eriksen says the success of a downtown square lies in consistent, yearlong programming that draws people during nights and weekends, as well as an inviting atmosphere. That includes significant security, along with green space and other attractive features. Having a central leader also is key. “You have to have someone who spearheads and champions the plaza,” she said. Eventually, a full-time plaza manager will be hired in Topeka, Frye says. That person will hire a support staff and market the plaza both as a venue and an attraction. Plans for how the position operates will be finalized as construction nears completion. “It will be free and open to everyone,” he said, “but we want it to be managed professionally, just like any other venue.” Contact courts and enterprise reporter/web editor Luke Ranker at (785) 295-1270, @ lrankerNEWS on Twitter or facebook.com/lukeranker.


D12  Sunday, June 17, 2018