Taking aim downtown: Cyrus Hotel firm juggles multiple projects

The Cyrus Hotel will rise out of the ground in the next months, changing the downtown landscape and fueling excitement about the area’s revitalization.


In recent weeks, the McPherson team has cleared all the buildings out, including existing basements, and they’ve begun to put in the foundations for the hotel, said Seth Wagoner, AIM Strategies CEO and CFO. AIM is the company founded by Cody Foster, Advisors Excel co-founder, to organize his development projects.

In May, the steel began arriving for the tower construction, which will fill the upcoming months, Wagoner said.

“Really, over the next three to six months, that’s the main thing that people are going to see change in the downtown skyline,” he said. “Once that tower is done, then we’ll start working on a lot of the interior design and finishes. It’s going to be fun.”

Organizing a project of this size and scope in a downtown area has taken skill and finesse. Wagoner said he’s grateful to Marvin Spees, who owns the vacant lot on the northeast corner of 10th Avenue and Kansas Avenue, in a way that can’t be fully explained.

“Without him and the availability of that lot, Kansas Avenue would probably have to be shut down between 9th and 10th streets,” Wagoner said. “We’d have to stage everything in the street, which would be detrimental to all the merchants that are already there. I can’t be thankful enough.”

Others in the area, including the state of Kansas employees at the Scott Building, 120 S.E. 10th Ave., have been helpful, too, he added, as construction crews have moved equipment and supplies in through their parking areas.

“Constructing in a downtown environment is much different than a field out on Wanamaker,” Wagoner said.

But progress on the hotel and restaurant has been steady and good. The challenge of replacing the 920 facade, which in original plans was supposed to be left standing but was found to be in bad shape, has been dealt with.

“We’re going to replace that,” he said. “We can’t, according to the historical standards, replicate it. But it’s going to be 90 percent of what it looked like. We’re trying to use some of the materials that we saved out of the old building, use some of the same bricks, some of the alternating patterns of design. People are going to be like, ‘Did they just lift it and shift it?’ ”

Right now, when he’s not juggling multiple other development projects, Wagoner tries to pop by the job site and take videos and appreciate the forward movement.

“We’re extremely excited,” he said. “It’s that satisfaction of progress.”

In other news

Even as the Cyrus Hotel dominates the excitement downtown, AIM Strategies owns several buildings and each is at different stages of renovation and occupancy.

  • 921 S. Kansas — The former Skivvie’s bar, this long and narrow building is vacant. “We’ve shown it many times. I think honestly we’re being a little bit picky,” Wagoner said. “The overriding thing that we want for downtown is we want it to be different. We don’t want it to be a redundant offering. We want it to be something that somebody who lives out on 21st and Urish, they want to come downtown.”
  • 915 S. Kansas — This “very exciting” mystery project should be ready to be announced by the end of the year, Wagoner said.
  • 913 S. Kansas — Formerly The Merchant, this building will have a new loft on the second floor, but Wagoner said there are no plans yet for what goes into the space on the first floor. The loft space will be used by executives working on the Cyrus Hotel. After their work is completed, it will be leased out.
  • 735 S. Kansas — Determining a project for the former Wrap City restaurant is on hold while other projects are in the works.Wagoner said there is an “amazingly cool” basement in the building and numerous options are being considered. It probably will be a bar and should be open in 2018, he added.
  • 705 S. Kansas — This is the location of the RND Corner Grill, which is expected to open in the first quarter of 2018.
  • 112 S.W. 6th — The Columbian, a historic building, will be home to a new restaurant, The White Linen, and will continue to offer space for a variety of businesses. Wagoner said each floor will be redone, one at a time to accommodate tenants.
  • 107 S.W. 6th — This building, home to Designed Business Interiors, is getting a complete remodel, Wagoner said. Eventually, two spaces will be opened up for retail use. In addition, the building includes a warehouse, which is being used for storing items for Cyrus Hotel.

Wagoner studies the downtown area to make the best decisions for the buildings owned by AIM. He tries to consider what is needed to make the area successful. Although food and entertainment have been a prime focus, in the future, he’d like to see something that will draw families downtown.

”It needs something downtown that a family in Seneca or Hiawatha, Kan., is going to wake up and say, ‘Hey, let’s take our kids down there and let’s see this or let’s do this. We’re gonna eat downtown, and we’re going to stay at the Cyrus Hotel or the Ramada.’ Bars and restaurants are great, but there also needs to be some sort of family entertainment component that’s going to come.”

Wagoner said he reached out to Dave and Busters, but businesses like that don’t open for an area with a population of less than 700,000 people.

Such a family draw may be “next level” for downtown. For now, Wagoner and AIM Strategies staff are juggling numerous projects.

“It’s tough. It’s tough,” Wagoner said. “You’ve got to have a passion for it. It’s fun. I guess my ultimate goal is I’m tired of looking at architectural blueprints and plans. It’s just very rewarding to get things open. I just want to see downtown Topeka succeed.”