This story was originally published in the Wichita Eagle newspaper on September 24, 2009

Downtown Flats taking shape

by Bill Wilson

Dave Burk's latest downtown residential project is leasing space and should open on schedule in December.

Work is progressing on The Flats-324 at Historic Wichita High, in the old Wichita Area Technical College central campus at 324 N. Emporia, once the home of Wichita High School.

The old school is being converted into 68 flats ranging from 700 to 2,100 square feet.  Leasing began Saturday at $1per square foot, and a Web site is up at

"No two units are alike," Burk said.  "And we're going to retain as much of the flavor of the original school as we can, including naming some of the flats after the original rooms, like library, the gym, the home ec room."

Burk and partner Jason Van Sickle, a Wichita developer who runs J Van Sickle and Company, closed on the $975,000 purchase of the historic school in May.

The 4.75 million renovation was designed by Burk and is being completed by Key Construction, Wichita.

The 1910-vintage school, built for $200,000, housed health care education until WATC relocated its health sciences education program last year to the Southside Education Center at 4501 E. 47th St. South.

The project retains many of the school's original architectural features, including decorative gargoyles, original wood flooring, large windows and high ceilings.

Its signature flats are larger, located in the old high school art studio on the building's roof and its boiler room.  The building should house about 100 people when complete, Burk said.

"One of the things that we are most excited about is the quality and uniqueness of our product," Van Sickle said.  "(We are) carefully blending the finest in contemporary finishes with the beauty of the building's original architecture."

The project targets efforts by the city of Wichita and Sedgwick County to bring more people downtown to live.

"Certainly, more people living downtown is a key," said Jeff Fluhr, president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp.

"When you engage design firms as we have, they reiterate how important residential is to our downtown.  Those people sustain the retail development downtown and bring back the life 24/7.  Residential is key because it brings life back to the neighborhood.

With apartment vacancies dwindling citywide, the downtown market is wide open, Van Sickle said.

"Our research showed a strong demand for downtown apartments," he said, "with existing properties boasting healthy waiting lists.

"Whether it is the draw of Old Town, the recent development of Intrust Bank Arena...or just the desire to experience urban living, (we believe) downtown has quickly become the place to live for young professionals," Van Sickle said.

Burk and Van Sickle are utilizing federal and state historic tax credits to complete the project, along with financing from Kanza Bank.

Burk said the Kansas Legislature's decision to limit the amount of available state credits won't hurt The Flats.

"We know for sure that, worst-case scenario, we've got one-third this year, one-third in 2010 and one-third in 2011," he said.

The Legislature is expected to revisit in January the $3.75 million tax credits cap it imposed late last session.