Legislative committee endorses sale of historic Topeka building for $535,000

    Vicki Schmidt, the Kansas commissioner of insurance, attended a legislative committee meeting Monday for endorsement of the $535,000 sale of the vacant Woman's Club of Topeka building on the National Register of Historic Places. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
    Vicki Schmidt, the Kansas commissioner of insurance, attended a legislative committee meeting Monday for endorsement of the $535,000 sale of the vacant Woman's Club of Topeka building on the National Register of Historic Places. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

    TOPEKA — A state legislative committee issued a bipartisan recommendation for approval of a $535,000 bid on a nearly 100-year-old Topeka building on the National Register of Historic Places that previously housed the state insurance department.

    The three-story brick structure with cut stone trim near the Capitol, known as the Woman’s Club of Topeka, features stained-glass windows and chandeliers.

    An appraisal for the state prepared last year pegged value of the building at $1.1 million. It was offered at auction after the insurance agency relocated to west Topeka in November, but the state has continued to pay about $5,000 monthly in utility and maintenance expenses.

    A Topeka investment group plans to renovate the building into an event venue.

    On Monday, the joint state building construction committee agreed to recommend Gov. Laura Kelly and top legislative leaders on the State Finance Council accept the deal.

    Sen. Carolyn McGinn, a Republican from Sedgwick and chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said portions of the building’s utility infrastructure needed to be replaced at an estimated cost of $500,000.

    “That gets you over $1 million and that doesn’t include other problems with the building,” she said.

    Ulysses Rep. Marty Long said the appraisal was conducted in late 2019 prior to COVID-19 driving down commercial property values.

    Renovation of the property, returning it to the tax roll and placing money in the state treasury is “a great deal,” said Rep. John Alcala, a Topeka Democrat.

    Under existing Kansas law, 80% of proceeds from the sale of surplus property must be forwarded to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System and 20% to the state treasury.

    Previous articleUnemployment rate in Kansas declines to 6.9% in August
    Next articleU.S. House passes deal on stopgap funding, avoids government shutdown
    Tim Carpenter
    Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.