A couple years ago, Derek Richards (who never lets a dream go unexplored) heard that the Ag Press building might be for sale. Since both he and I grew up in Manhattan and have only lived elsewhere for 4 years of our life, we were intrigued by this building that we never had a chance to see the inside of. We both have fond memories of our dads working across the street at Christmas time in Long’s park at the Optimist Christmas tree stand and eating cheese fritters at the neighboring Kreem Kup for open lunch at Manhattan High School. Derek and I love old buildings and Manhattan really doesn’t seem to have that many left especially in this type of architecture. Soon after Derek’s first inquiry, Hale library had a fire and needed a place to store their books so Ag Press was off the market to fill a need. A couple years later, the owner let Derek know when it was emptied of the books, but there was possibly another buyer with a higher offer. We felt very comfortable that if the door was closed that was meant to be, but the other offer fell through and we purchased the Ag Press building in April of 2022.
Derek wanted to make it into a place where families can come and be together. We have Aggieville which is primarily for college students and Ft. Riley soldiers and downtown which has become a great place for people who don’t want to go to Aggieville, but is still not a place that kids really want to go. Derek had been to Parlor in Kansas City which is a modern, fancy food court where you may buy a delicious meal from one of six vendors and eat in the shared seating areas. He had also heard of The Jones Assembly in OKC and how fun Chicken N Pickle was and decided that that is the vibe of a place he wanted Manhattan to have. I was a bit reluctant because I’m just not sure that a place like that in Manhattan can keep busy and survive. I thought we should turn it into a wedding/event venue. Manhattan needs a centrally located, cool wedding venue and I knew (from working at Mr. P’s party outlet in high school helping people order wedding invitations) that a lot of K-State students come back to Manhattan to have their weddings. Currently, Manhattan’s wedding venues seem to be outside of town. We decided to take our ideas to an architect to see what was possible. We chose the same architects that designed the Parlor in KC since we had seen their work turning an old building into a aestically pleasing venue.
Turns out the building is quite large and could house both of our ideas if we want! Here is a visual of a possible layout:
Doing something like this would obviously take a lot of money and time and know how. Right now we are asking ourselves and others, “What do we do now?”! We are not developers (which you guys may have already been thinking!). Our problem is that we would really like to have this concept in our town and in our building, but we do not know the right steps to making sure this is feasible, and even if it is, we do not want to manage it or hold all the risk if the dream is realized. I did submit a request to be a location for a Chicken N Pickle just in case they think it is a good move for them!
We have rented out a lot of the space (mostly for storage) so that we can cover the mortgage while we take our time to figure out how to move forward. We have met with preservation folks to possibly receive historic tax credits and have meetings to meet with two locals who have brought their dreams to Manhattan to pick their brains. We are open to anyone who might have some ideas as to what companies to work with who know how to see if this is feasible, find investors and management firms.
Let’s see if we can make this happen!