By GREG MAST
Herald Senior Writer
One of Ottawa’s jewels is gaining a new life.
The former Federal Post Office, 122 E. Second St., Ottawa, will undergo a major restoration, its new owner revealed. Leading the renovation is Narthex Property, a Kansas City based real estate and leasing company, which specializes in restoring unique commercial properties. The 104-year-old limestone landmark will become a new event space known as “The Historic Post Office.”
Rob Boyer, Narthex partner and entrepreneur, said the architecture of the old building swept him away.
“The history and beauty of the building left a lasting impression on us,” Boyer said. “Its story isn’t over. We’re excited to breathe new life into this iconic Ottawa landmark and create something the community will be proud to call their own.”
Loyd Builders Inc., 2126 S. Elm St., Ottawa, was selected to lead the rebirth of the post office. Boyer said it was a natural fit for Loyd Builders to be the lead contractor for the project.
“Their attention to detail, bidding and desire to do it, came through compared to everybody else we looked at,” Boyer said. “Josh Walker’s opinion was that ‘I can’t imagine anybody else doing this work except us.’ They felt a calling. This is the most iconic building in their hometown. They wanted to do the work.”
Walker, the owner of the company, said the project is special to him and Ottawa.
“To be chosen to help bring it back to life is really an honor,” Walker said. “The building has been there for a long time. We have seen it go unused for a long time. It is certainly exciting to breath some new life into that awesome building. Moreover, the community will share our tremendous sense of pride that goes along with being home to such a great facility.”
The renovations are expected to start in November and be completed by May 2018, Boyer said. The plans for the new space include a 4,000-square-foot, luxury ballroom that can accommodate up to 300 guests, a 1930s Speakeasy style bar and lounge, and suites for a bride and groom.
“The upstairs ballroom will be grand,” Boyer said. “It is going to attract a lot of brides from the region. The downstairs speakeasy is a very cool space. Local people will really appreciate it. It will have a bar and televisions. It will hold 100 people. If you want to have a local community or Chamber of Commerce event, or somebody wants to rent the space and watch KU basketball. It is going to be a neat smaller space for private parties, corporate events, fantasy football or Monday Night Football.”
MODERN, BUT ELEGANT
Fernanda Paiva, a Narthex partner, said they did not want to interfere with the building’s character in the renovation.
“One of our biggest concerns was regarding how the building used to look,” she said. “We wanted to keep that alive in the building. We needed to make it modern. We tried to keep the same light fixture style they had back in the day. The marble in the floor we wanted to keep. We are keeping as much as we can of the building. It is so beautiful.”
Paiva said the building again will be a center piece for Ottawa.
“When we first saw the vacant post office, we saw the potential of what it could become for Ottawa and the community,” she said. “Ottawa is a quaint town with a lot of charm.
“We want the space to reflect the best of both modern and historical styles while providing a new space for the community to come together and celebrate life. We look forward to creating unforgettable experiences for years to come.”
Boyer said the original construction of the building had a lot of forethought.
“The construction of it is unbelievable,” he said. “The steel girders and the concrete work, you couldn’t do that today for $500 a square foot. That building would cost $5 to $7 million in today’s world. It is just a beautiful old building. Our company Narthex, we have a passion for old buildings. When we find a historic property like the post office, we are definitely interested in it. We have looked at a fair number of interesting historic buildings. That one is breathtaking.”
Boyer said an events center was the perfect setting to not disturb its pristine architecture.
“That is the only thing we feel like that can work in that space,” Boyer said. “We feel the event space is right. It is a draw. We think we can attract a broader regional base of people that will come to Ottawa. We have been pleased because we are getting inquiries from places like Manhattan, Leavenworth and Kansas City. We had a bride from Chicago [talk to us]. We feel validated. We are going to be good for economic development in Ottawa.”
Walker said after looking at the drawings, the only description that comes to mind is “elegant.”
“It is really going to look fantastic,” he said. “It will be a jewel for the community. It is going to be a very high class event space. Honestly it will be a destination facility. We will see a lot of folks from around the region will want to come and hold events there because of how nice it will be and the history.”
The new design will have four major rooms: a ballroom, speakeasy lounge, bride’s room and groom’s space. Narthex hired Clockwork, a Kansas City design company, to design the rooms.
“We kind of directed them that we wanted to create an event space,” Boyer said. “We wanted a dedicated bride’s room and groom’s room. We wanted to turn the downstairs of that building into a speakeasy-style 1930s throwback bar and lounge. They took it from there and came up with the design elements.”
The ballroom will be a big drawing card, Boyer said. Information on each of the spaces can be found at historicpostoffice.com
The website gave the following description of the ballroom: “The ballroom will be a 4,000-square-foot, luxury room. The soaring ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, sparkling chandeliers and warm wood floors create a perfect setting for a dream wedding reception. In addition to this space, guests seeking a more intimate setting can be seated in the adjacent lounge. Restrooms have been beautifully restored and reflect the best of both modern and historical styles. The old postmaster’s safe has been transformed into a unique coat closet.”
The lounge downstairs will have some flair. The website said the room will have a certain ambience.
The 1930s-style bar and lounge transports guests into a time long gone, is how the room is described on the website. “Its intimate ambiance recalls the past, yet offers a contemporary, modern look. The space is perfect for a cocktail hour between a wedding ceremony and reception or for a rehearsal dinner, sports party, corporate gathering or any relaxed celebration.”
The bride’s room will be a place for the women in the wedding to prepare before the ceremony, the site said.
The description said: “The state-of-the-art space is both elegant and highly functional. Amenities include a three-way full-length floor mirror; lighted vanity with styling chairs for hair and make-up; modern, yet comfortable furniture; chandelier and private restroom. Best of all, there is a live-streaming television, allowing the bride and her party to view the ballroom and arriving guests.
“The groom’s room is where the men can relax before the big event. It was described as a place where the groom and his attendants can get ready in style. First-class accommodations include a cable TV, leather couch and comfy chairs, allowing them to relax together before the big hour arrives,” the site said.
“We decided it would be great to have a venue that you could do the [wedding] ceremony, reception and cocktail hour in one building,” Paiva said.
Walker said the anticipation and excitement of the restoration project cannot be measured.
“I was excited to see somebody that had purchased the building with the vision and the means to really turn it into something great,” he said. “We are anxious to get started. This one will definitely be a mind toward preserving history as opposed to accommodating the new use.”