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Newsmakers - Dave Burk, Dave Wells & Paul Coury, Ambassador Hotel

Tuesday, November 27 2012 12:00 AM

Newsmakers — Dave Burk, Dave Wells & Paul Coury, Ambassador Hotel

Wichita Business Journal

By John Stearns, Reporter 

Old Town developer Dave Burk considers the Ambassador Hotel among the most high-profile of the roughly 40 projects on which he’s worked.

That says something about the project’s importance and why the project has earned Burk and his partners, Paul Coury andDave Wells, recognition as 2011 Newsmakers.

“It’s just sitting there as an eyesore on a really a key corner on Douglas and Broadway,” Burk says of the former Union National Bank building, also known as the Douglas Building, which has been empty for about 12 years.

Redoing that building is leading to the rejuvenation of an entire block downtown, sparking a public-private partnership that includes a parking garage and urban park, plus the neighboring Kansas Health Foundation’s expansion for the Kansas Leadership Center and the expected renovation of the old Henry’s department store to the south.

It’s exactly the kind of project Burk likes: taking a historic building with no useful purpose anymore and giving it new life. “This hotel will be there probably another 100 years now,” he says.

The hotel is expected to open in December.

Passion for historic hotels

Coury, a Tulsa-based developer, loves converting historic buildings like this.

“I have always had a passion for historic hotels,” he said Jan. 10 at a meeting of theWichita Independent Business Association.

He has converted similar older buildings into hotels and intends to make the Ambassador stand out.

The idea is to create an experience that’s an attractive option for business and leisure travelers, Coury says. That includes a high-end restaurant and bar appropriate for the quality of the 117 rooms.

“Our goal is to create a four-star hotel ... to have a boutique product which is custom-designed exclusively to the building ... not a branded product,” he says.

Coury says the project will be in the same quality category as three other hotels he’s done: the Ambassador in Tulsa, the Colcord in Oklahoma City and the Ashton in Fort Worth, the latter two of which he sold. He’s under way on a similar project in Kansas City, also an Ambassador Hotel, which will open in June. The Tulsa Ambassador was his first hotel renovation and became his signature property, he told WIBA.

“It’s a sexy building for me,” he said of the Wichita site.

Wells, president of Key Construction, calls the Ambassador Hotel “a fantastic project for Wichita.” He called Coury’s hotel in Tulsa “off the charts.”

To have that same quality hotel here, “I think is great for all of Wichita,” Wells says.

He says his company, the project’s general contractor, is “bringing (the building) back as close as we can to what it was in its glory days.”

People often talk about catalysts and anchors for areas, “and this is definitely the anchor and the catalyst,” Wells says, pointing out the other projects in the block. “I don’t believe any of that would have happened were it not for the hotel.”



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