New Apartments a Bit Old School

New Apartments a Bit Old School WICHITA, KS - A Wichita partnership has a contract on the former Sunnyside Elementary building at 3003 E. Kellogg, with plans to turn it into 22 apartments. Headed by Jason Van Sickle of J. Van Sickle & Co., a Wichita developer, the group plans to close on the $250,000 purchase in July and begin construction the same month. Completion is scheduled for late 2009.

The building housed Wichita schools and then Calvary Christian School for about a decade before the school moved to 1130 S. Broadway in January.

Van Sickle said the $2 million project is based on a more contemporary, upbeat style of apartment built in a renovated setting.

"The product will be a contemporary apartment concept that blends historic construction with new, high-end finishes at an affordable market rate," Van Sickle said.

Classrooms will be tweaked to create the upscale apartments, but the building will retain many of its original school qualities, including hardwood floors, 11-foot ceilings, stained glass and chalkboards.

Added will be a rooftop recreational deck, including a basketball court.

The partnership has hired Greteman Group to brand the project.

"It's modern, innovative, unique, not like everything else," said Sonia Greteman, CEO and creative director of Greteman Group.

"It's great to re-use urban space and there are a lot of things I like about branding to a younger, hipper demographic, a more sophisticated person with more artistic sensibilities. It's a market that seems underserved to me."

Other partners include Farha Construction, Farha Development and Far Oaks Development. Van Sickle said other partners will be announced after the deal closes.

Van Sickle, who is a partner in Dave Burk's condo project at the old Wichita Area Technical College building downtown, said the project grew out of market research for the Burk plan.

That research showed "there is a high market demand for apartments that break the mold and offer something unique, other than whitewashed walls and tan carpet," Van Sickle said.

With apartment occupancies around Wichita at about 97 percent, the Burk and Van Sickle projects could be the first of several multifamily builds launched in Wichita.

"It's a great time to get into this market," said Ted Farha, partner in Farha Construction.

"Downtown's full, the conventional market is pretty full. Housing's always been interesting to us, producing something nice and unique people can live in for a reasonable price."

Van Sickle said his group has identified a half-dozen older buildings in Wichita suitable for renovation.

"Competition is limited by the fact construction has been stifled by high construction costs in 2008 and a lack of conventional financing in 2009," he said.

"We overcome both of those challenges by converting existing buildings to overcome high new construction costs, and we are 100 percent funded by private equity investment."

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