Michael Ramsey of Bokeh Development, Wichita, Kan., had the ambitious idea of turning an old, obsolete, concrete parking facility in downtown Wichita into a cool, modern, mixed-use apartment building.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016, Broadway Autopark (originally called Knightley’s Parking Garage and built in 1949) has been reimagined and repurposed from its original heritage as a 500-car parking garage into a 44-unit, trendy, urban, residential and commercial complex—becoming a community asset to downtown Wichita.
Farha Construction Inc., which was the contractor on this project, now leases the office space on Broadway Autopark’s ground floor. The next four levels are one-bedroom apartments. Residents get the best of both worlds: covered and secure parking directly in front of their door, plus the convenience of living downtown. Each unit is a modern, industrial, open-concept living space with amenities any urban dweller would desire.
The arrival of the automobile in the first decade of the 20th century played a significant role in Wichita’s growth. By 1923, one in five Wichita residents owned an auto, making downtown congestion and parking top concerns for city leaders. With its diversified industrial economy, Wichita weathered the Great Depression and WWII. Following the war, its population returned to wartime highs and the city nearly doubled in size. The post-war growth heightened the struggle between needing cars to bring people to shop and work downtown without overburdening city streets.
Local oilman D.R. Lauck realized the multi-level parking garage could address the challenge of congestion by removing parked vehicles from busy streets and making efficient use of downtown real estate. Upon opening in March 1950, Knightley’s Parking Garage was proclaimed as a civic and commercial asset to Wichita, providing a much-needed service to downtown businesses and customers: the ability to park and shop or work in close proximity to the destination. The garage is a rare surviving example of a post-war, privately owned and attendant-operated garage, in contrast to self-park garages that became dominant in the 1950s. A dual-function facility, the garage also served as the offices of Lauck Oil Co. for more than 25 years.
Knightley’s Parking Garage also is an excellent representative of the multi-story parking garage, a unique Modern building type characterized by its open-air design, its concrete construction and its minimalist exposed skeletal structure distinguished by horizontal banding. The garage featured parking on the roof deck, a novelty for the city. Other distinguishing features were its twin spiral ramps, porthole windows, integral flared canopies at the perimeter rail and the 4-story neon “PARKING” sign on the Broadway façade. Incorporating the latest advances in concrete construction, Wichita’s largest parking garage (at the time of construction) reflects the convergence of architecture and engineering in a modern building form. The garage featured twin spiral towers and porthole windows and had the capacity to hold 500 cars. All these unique features remain, including the manlift that allowed parking attendants to move themselves between floors. Although, no longer functional, the manlift remains as an artistic and aesthetic part of the building.
In the 1950s, wealthy Wichitans would drop their cars off with a valet at the garage before going shopping downtown. As customers shopped, downtown merchants would ship their purchases to Knightley’s Parking Garage. An advertisement of the grand opening of Knightley’s Parking Garage in 1950 announced an air-conditioned waiting room, restrooms and parcel storage. There was also a safe used to guard valuable purchases.
The garage was open 24/7, 365 days a year until the early 1980s when it closed because there no longer was demand for valet parking services. The building owner unsuccessfully tried to make conversions so the garage would be self-parking; however, the facility sat vacant and trash-filled for the next few decades until Bokeh Development acquired the building in 2016. The garage was in rough shape—not structurally but cosmetically. There was trash everywhere and graffiti all over the walls.
After it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the renovations began. Inside the office area, crews found parking tickets they estimated had been on the ground 30-plus years. The renovations took a little more than two years to complete. Continue reading the full article in Retrofit Magazine
Architect: Shelden Architecture Inc., Wichita, Kan.; Stan Shelden; Daniel Gensch
Developer: Bokeh Development, Wichita
General Contractor: Farha Construction Inc., Wichita
MEP Engineers: Integrated Consulting Engineers Inc., Wichita
Structural Engineers: Hartwell Structural Engineering, Wichita, (316) 683-6644, and MKEC, Wichita
Historic Preservation Specialist: Spencer Preservation, Wamego, Kan.
HVAC Subcontractor: Waldorf Riley Heating & Cooling, Arkansas City, Kan.
Electrical Subcontractor: Tejeda Electric, Wichita, (316) 832-9558
Sign Refurbishment: Ron’s Sign Co., Wichita