Downtown Topeka scrambles to keep state jobs

TOPEKA (KSNT) – Downtown Topeka businessmen are working to ensure that when the state owned Docking Building is torn down in coming years those state employees remain in the downtown area.

Kansas First News reported last week the state has begun negotiations with those interested in leasing space to the state to replace the office space now held in the Docking building.

Those behind the “Revitalize Topeka” movement in the downtown area want to guarantee the majority, if not all, the 1,200 jobs being relocated remain downtown.

Still some local business owners and employees of those businesses are uneasy.

“We want restaurants, we want retail, we want galleries”, says Vince Frye, CEO of Downtown Topeka, Inc. More importantly he says the group wants “people downtown. Something that may become more difficult in the coming months.”

Though state administrators have said they have intentions to remain nearby, proposals for the relocation of the state offices currently inside the Docking building don’t make that a requirement.

That’s why people like Frye are making suggestions for the relocations, such as the empty Athena building “…and places like Kansas Avenue, Quincy and Jackson that also have opportunities.”

He’s not the only one pushing for the state offices to remain close. Workers and owners of local businesses are also worried, saying they don’t want to lose their biggest revenue stream.

“I fee it’ll affect business because they’re moving away from downtown,” says local barista Yvonne Duncan “And most of our business is from customers who do their  business on their lunch breaks and breaks.

Classic Bean has already cut some downtown employees hours.

Jacqueline Crow, another barista, says “they’ll move all those people and then two years of construction, the owners have other stores but I don’t know how long classic Bean will be able to stay alive.”

After his meeting with the relocation project managers Frye says “We’re confident that things will continue to be very opportunistic for businesses that are down here or are considering downtown. But, naturally, we are hopeful that all those employees stay downtown.”

The state says it hopes all the current workers, and offices, inside the Docking Building are relocated by next July. Plans call for the demolition of the building the year after that.



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