TOPEKA — Demolition on the inside the new office building for the Great Plains Conference will begin this month, with a tentative move-in date coming as early as October.
Scott Brewer, treasurer and director of administrative services for the conference, gave the communications staff a tour of the building at 100 S. Kansas Ave. in Topeka on Jan. 31.
Brewer said the top floor of the two-story building would be started and completed first.
“We’ve told our contractors … the priority is getting this level done so we can get the staff moved in, and the second priority is to finish up the lower level,” he said.
The building, originally designed in the 1940s, was purchased in May for $2.6 million. Brewer said the renovation budget is another $4 million to $4.5 million, and anticipatory steps already were being made to avoid inflation and supply chain issues.
“We’re already making choices that will make that less expensive,” he said.
The upper floor, which currently contains offices, will be demolished to make way for 30 permanent offices and six hoteling spaces, the latter used for staff members who aren’t frequently in the office. Current open space in the middle of the second floor will be converted to pod spaces for offices.
“It’s a sturdier version of a cubicle with a ceiling on top,” Brewer said. “They won’t feel like cubicles, they’ll feel like full offices.”
Nearly all of the office spaces will be at least 100 square feet, he said. All will have sliding glass doors.
The industrial look of the interior, which has been a warehouse, a custom cabinet manufacturer and, most recently, an advertising agency, will remain including painted brick on an upper floor meeting room and a lower-level kitchen, Brewer said.
Changes to the roof are planned, he added, to install fiberglass panels that will give more natural light to the building.
The main level of the building will include a cabinet meeting room, video and audio studios and a meeting area available to the public that could hold as many as 300 people, Brewer said, but more likely 150 in a classroom setting.
“We want to be an inviting, welcoming, supportive member of the community,” he said. “For me, the measure of success in this building is not just ‘Did we come in on time?’ (or) ‘Did we come in on budget?’ It’s ‘Are we using this facility six or seven days a week?’ or is someone else using this facility six or seven days a week. That’s our goal — this isn’t just our office.”
Brewer said the new conference office will model what leaders have been preaching to churches about making their facilities accessible.
“It’s our chance to say we’re walking the walk, not just talking the talk,” he said.
The final stage of construction is a parking lot behind the building, Brewer added.
The neighborhood with the new office is part of downtown renewal of the capital city, Brewer said. Kansas Department of Transportation crews are at work on Interstate 70 renovations that will include a Kansas Avenue exit right by the new building.
“Our hope is that we can be part of the continued revitalization and development in this area of downtown,” Brewer said.
The building will have a cross-and-flame and signage for The United Methodist Church on the front, he added, and a canopy that says Great Plains Conference above the doorway, matching several other construction styles in the neighborhood.
The Rev. Stephanie Ahlschwede, chair of the board of trustees, said she was pleased with the accessible, “collegial working space” of the building with its large gathering space.
“It’s very much in an urban neighborhood in the heart of Topeka,” said Ahlschwede, pastor of Omaha St. Paul Benson UMC. “We’re just really pleased we’re able to bring new life to an existing building, which of course was built to last. And that feels really good. We’re glad to be part of a neighborhood that’s in a season of new vitality.”