New hotel looks to catalyze the future of downtown Topeka

A little over three months ago, plans were announced for a new hotel in the 900 block of South Kansas Avenue, but like a lot of the downtown renovations, this hotel holds far more than its face value.


“[Cyrus K. Holliday] saw Topeka as kind of a gateway city, as a new vision for the area back in a time when everything was being founded and that’s really what we see this as,” Seth Wagoner, CFO of AIM Strategies and co-project developer for the Cyrus Hotel, said. “Topeka’s got a ton of hotels that are all chains. We want something that’s different. Something that’s going to be reasonably priced, but if you’re a traveler, you’d want to stop and stay there just because it’s a cool place and it’s something that you need to see when you’re stopping through Topeka.”


The Cyrus Hotel, named for Cyrus K. Holliday, one of the city’s founding fathers, will be a ‘boutique’ hotel in buildings from 912 to 920 S. Kansas Ave. The hotel will be the first in the greater downtown area in the past 25 years. It will include a courtyard, a restaurant with a ‘farm to table’ menu, rooftop garden area, 10,000 square feet of event space, and what was initially planned as a six story addition to hold 79 rooms will actually be eight stories and hold 100 to 105 rooms.


“I think [the Cyrus Hotel] will be fairly unique in Topeka as far as how it’s built and how it’s designed,” Cody Foster, co-project manager of the Cyrus Hotel, said. “I think it’s going to have some character unlike any hotel. I think it’ll be one of the cooler hotels in the Midwest.”


A hotel of this scale is something that has taken months of planning and will continue to do so, but it was ultimately the brainchild of one man.


“In the end, it all came from Cody [Foster],” said Wagoner. “One thing that he always got feedback on was that when he brought guests for Advisors Excel here to Topeka, that there wasn’t a cool, great place to stay, so he wanted to create something that was a destination spot.”


Foster is also one of the founders of Advisors Excel. Advisors Excel is a Topeka-based field marketing organization (FMO), which has found a great deal of success in the capital city.


“This has kind of been Cody’s pet project,” said Wagoner. “I mean, we spent three months, he and I, going back and forth just trying to figure out what the name of the place should be.”


Even though this hotel has been a top priority for both Foster and Wagoner, they see a greater vision for downtown Topeka beyond their hotel.


“Every great town I’ve been to, they’ve got one place where you can go park and there’s tons of stuff to do, like places to stay, places to eat, places to shop, and we just don’t have that,” Foster said. “And I know there’s been a lot of talk about little retail shops and restaurants, but I think the one thing that every other city I’ve gone to with a spot like that has, is a cool hotel downtown, so I guess the one thing that we kind of feel is needed more than anything as kind of an anchor downtown is a cool hotel.”


While Wagoner and Foster continue to put ample amounts of work into the Cyrus, they understand that this hotel cannot be the only thing coming downtown if these renovations are to work.


“We have some other real estate in downtown Topeka,” Wagoner said. “By the time the Cyrus is finished in the fall of 2017, we want some other concepts to launch around that same time just so that there’s more to continue to draw people down there. We want that blitz of things to all be in downtown Topeka. We don’t want it to be a trickle. We want four things to open within the next 18 months to two years and we want [the Cyrus] to be the tip of the spear for what comes to downtown Topeka.”


With so much thought and effort being put into the hotel as well as other related investments, Foster and Wagoner certainly realize that there’s potential risk, as well as reward, to their investment. Even so, that doesn’t turn them away from designing a key aspect of downtown Topeka.


“Both Cody and I will admit that it’s a risk going into downtown Topeka,” said Wagoner. “But more than anything, we believe in Topeka. We know the potential that this city has. We just really believe that we can make it a success here. So yeah, it’s a big risk, but somebody had to go first and somebody had to try to make downtown Topeka better and that’s what we’re trying to do.”


Ultimately, Wagoner and Foster both have one common goal – working towards a better Topeka.


“I just think there’s definitely a changing vibe in Topeka,” said Foster. “I’ve been here for 21 years and I’ve never seen the momentum that the city has right now. I think [Topeka has] got a lot of potential and if [the Cyrus] can help build some of that momentum and continue to accelerate the process and encourage other people to make that investment, that’s kind of why we’ve done it. It takes some time for all this stuff to come together, but I think 3-5 years from now, you’re going to see a really positive shift [in Topeka].”


The Cyrus Hotel will begin construction on May 1, 2016 and is set to open its doors in the fall of 2017.