Life in city center

The rise of housing options in downtown Wichita

Written by Julie Schillings | Photography by Visual Fusion Photographics

Residents and businesses alike are bringing creative energy and revitalization to downtown Wichita. It's a community full of friendly neighbors enjoying the urban lifestyle. Close proximity to cultural activities, restaurants and entertainment make downtown Wichita a great place to work and call home.

Strong demand for downtown living and a high occupancy in the housing inventory have resulted in continued growth. A significant number of new rental options are expected over the next several years. To quench some of the pent-up demand, 724 properties are in the pipeline according to Wichita Downtown Development Corporation. Strong job growth compounded with an increased preference for urban living options will fuel the momentum for downtown housing demand for the foreseeable future.

Ask anybody who lives in downtown Wichita — young professionals, families, empty nesters — they all love it.

Urban lifestyle

For Robyn and David Wells, relocating to their two-story, 4,500-square-foot condominium in the Grant Telegraph building in Old Town was part of a 12 year plan. The couple rented the unit for many years, and two years ago made it their permanent residence after their children “left the nest.”

Robyn Wells is the owner of Uniquities Home store on Rock Island which is located just down the block from her loft. “This is my playground,” she says of her downtown abode. “It’s my home, my work, my everything!” Wells’ eclectic style is reflected in both her home and her store which includes antiques, global treasures and architectural salvaged elements such as equipment from the Grant Telegraph building repurposed as room dividers.

As for the change in lifestyle, Wells says, “We love it here. We walk everywhere,” she adds. “I hardly cook anymore because there are so many wonderful choices right outside our door.”

WaterWalk residents, LewJene Schneider and Tony Caputo have embraced the urban lifestyle and the energy of downtown. Schneider, a realtor with J.P. Weigand and Sons, has vast experience with residential properties across the city, and during their search for a new home, the couple toured 44 different houses before ultimately choosing to live downtown in the WaterWalk Residences.

Their three-story condominium takes full advantage of the cityscape with views from two large outdoor living spaces and floor-to-ceiling windows. “Living here is so interesting and exciting,” Caputo says. “Something is always going on outside of our windows — concerts, car shows, weddings at the Boathouse, families playing at the fountains.” The couple enjoyed an intimate view of the hot air balloon launch at sunrise during Riverfest, and the evening was capped with a fireworks show.

Schneider's and Caputo’s vibrant style is reflected in the design of their home. Mid- century modern furnishings are accented with splashes of color. The expansive walls feature the couple’s eclectic collection of art. Schneider adds, “We love this place because our hobby is entertaining. We have a unique home that our friends enjoy coming to.”

Whether they are hosting impromptu parties or seated dinners for 60 people or more, the couple enjoys sharing their home with friends, family and the community.

“The lifestyle downtown is unbelievably appealing and vibrant, and we are thrilled with our choice to live here,” Schneider says. “We are not moving again — ever!”

Urban design

“Downtown offers a different product type,” says Wichita Downtown Development Corporation’s executive vice president, Jason Gregory. “Most suburban apartments are all similar in the finishes and amenities that they provide. The unique characteristics — exposed brick, large windows, industrial feel of historic buildings — make each downtown property very special.”

Opening this fall, the Pinnacle Lofts and Apartments is a 70-unit property spanning two buildings with convenient gated parking. Contemporary features and design include stained concrete floors on first floor units and exposed galvanized ductwork. According to general contractor and owner of Icon Structures, Brandon Wilson, these are the types of characteristics that make a downtown apartment unique.

Icon Structures has earned a reputation for building custom homes and commercial projects with high standards and impeccable attention to detail. Wilson says the Pinnacle project incorporates a bike-share program for residents and is conveniently located to both downtown and the river corridor. “It is the best of both worlds,” Wilson says. “Pinnacle is one of the first new construction, from the ground-up apartments in downtown.”

What's up in downtown?

1,319 Existing downtown residences prior to 2010
571 New downtown residences since adoption of Project Downtown
724 New downtown residences under construction and in the planning stage
26,000+ People work in downtown Wichita
Source: Wichita Downtown Development Corporation

It’s an exciting time to live downtown. The Wichita Downtown Development Corporation’s vision is to further enhance residents’ quality of life. Gregory said that citizens can expect to see more place-making initiatives, like the wildly successful PopUp-Park on Douglas. Local art will be further utilized to enhance public spaces.

Events, such as yoga in the park, will create opportunities for residents to gather and build community. Approximately 50 percent of residents are pet owners, so it’s possible that a dog park is on the horizon.

“People of all ages live down here because they enjoy the walkable, urban environment,” Gregory concludes that he looks forward to watching the downtown population double in the next few years as new properties become available, and Wichita residents choose to explore living in the city center.

Downtown Living Tour

Sunday, Oct. 2
1:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Tour numerous lofts and apartments in downtown.
For more information about participating
locations visit downtownwichitalivingtour.com

 
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