Historical Architecture

Historic Wiley Plaza

‘Tallest Building West of the Mississippi’

In 2013, WDM Architects designed a complete renovation of the Wiley Building in Hutchinson, Kansas, as an adaptive reuse of an historical property. This project qualified for Federal and State Historic Tax Credits. Now known as Wiley Plaza, the Wiley Building was once called “the tallest building west of the Missisppi,” on a bronze plaque on the building.

Built in 1913 and considered a “sky-scraper,” the Rorabaugh-Wiley Building was built as a department store with upper floors for various offices.

“It is to be a most magnificent affair, standing very high above any surrounding building and have the architectural beauty possible with such a large structure. … No other year has started off with the promise of an eight-story dry goods house and office building. The faith of the Rorabaugh-Wiley company is the faith of the people of the community.”
— The Hutchinson News Feb. 1, 1912

At the opening reception on November 20, 1913, 10,000 people toured the new building touted the “tallest building west of the Mississippi.” It stood as a symbol of pride and progress of the community. At the time, the population of Hutchinson was only 20,000 — half of what it is today in 2022.

Designed in the Classic Revival style of architecture, the Wiley building is clad in buff brick with terra cotta detailing. The first floor which is emphasized from the exterior façade by a greater height, actually contains two levels, a ground floor and an open mezzanine. The upper seven floors are uniform in height. The penthouse, ninth floor, was added later but is still considered historical. Vertical pilasters emphasize the building’s height. The west side of the building has five bays, each with a pair of multi-paned windows and nine bays on the south.

Seventy Years of Usefulness, then Abandoned

Over the years, there were various changes to the facility, including the addition of a penthouse in 1937 and the infill of the open u-shaped floor plates on the upper floors. Wiley Dry Goods operated until the mid-1980s when the main store closed and Wiley’s Home Fashions moved to the mall.

For nearly three decades, the Wiley Building sat empty as a sad symbol of decline in the Hutchinson community. Many groups had attempted a renovation to restore the facility to its place of pride and usefulness, but ultimately failed.

However, Jay Manske understood the importance of leveraging community partnerships and worked for more than a year to reach an agreement with the previous owner and secure funding.

In 2013, WDM Architects was retained for a historic renovation of adaptive reuse of the 100-year-old structure into 72 apartment units, with ground-floor commercial lease space.

The renovated Wiley Building’s 10,000 s.f. first-floor commercial space provides first-class lease space previously unavailable downtown. The upper floors include market-rate and affordable housing units which strengthen the commercial and retail viability of the downtown area.


Extensive Scope of Work

Great care was taken to preserve and restore the original character of the 100-year-old building. The exterior terra cotta panels had become cracked and damaged over the years. These intricately detailed panels were repaired and in some cases replicated for an exact match of the original.

The original iron cornice had fallen into disrepair and had long since been removed. Using details from the historic blueprints as a guide, WDM used a century-old catalogue from an ornamental stamped metal producer, W. F. Norman, founded in 1892 to research historic designs. WDM was able to select spot-on replacements for the ornamental shields, flutes and rosettes for local sheet metal workers to recreate the decorative cornice.

The windows were replaced with thermally insulated units, which paid homage to the original configuration with single-hung sashes and applied muntins to mimic the appearance of divided lights.

Tight Schedule and Tighter Budget

The design team only had six weeks to complete bid documents for the interior demolition and reconstruction of the 92,000-square-foot facility. Construction documents were completed and a full building permit was obtained in time for a January 10th, 2014 start of construction.

The construction contract called for a Certificate of Occupancy to be received no later than December 24th, 2014. Delay would havr resulted in substantial financial loss.

The initial budget for the Wiley Plaza was 5% over the owner’s available funding. Through collaborative value engineering, the design and construction team, WDM, MKEC and Key Construction, took great care to devise the most cost-effective solutions while providing maximum value to the owner.

Historic and Kansas Housing Resources Commission Tax Credits, among others, were critical for this project to succeed. Meeting historical preservation requirements posed significant challenges. Three separate submittals to the National Park Service were made to assure compliance, including detailed shop drawings that were completed and reviewed in less than three weeks for more than 250 period-correct replacement windows.

Teamwork was Key to Success

As with any historic renovation project, Wiley Plaza provided ample opportunities for collaboration to resolve issues. From unforeseen structural items, to jurisdiction and weather issues, the contractor and design team worked hand in hand on a daily basis to find resolutions to all obstacles. Weekly progress meetings were crucial to keep the team on the same page and address anything that could hinder the project’s progress.

MKEC’s structural engineer made numerous site visits to resolve issues that arose, which was paramount to keeping the project on schedule. Numerous design elements were changed to keep up with an ever-moving target from the owner’s desires and unforeseen conditions.

Teamwork ensured the success of the project which not only exceeded the owner’s expectations, but was also completed 16 days ahead of schedule and within 1% of the budget.


Sustainable Choices

All decisions about materials, equipment, and fixtures took into consideration durability, ease of operation, ease of maintenance, and energy consumption.

Historic renovation is the ultimate sustainable choice when considering the environment and conservation. Renovation instead of demolition means that large quantities of steel, concrete, masonry, and other materials are not sent to the landfill. Additionally, the building and parking garage used low consumption lighting sources throughout, high efficiency heating and cooling system, added insulation to the inside of masonry walls and on top of the roof. New windows provided glass thermal valves.

New Parking Garage

A new 104-stall parking garage was built as part of the Wiley Plaza Development on the vacant lot at the northwest corner of Walnut Street and 1st Avenue. The location is adjacent to the historic Fox Theatre, which is sandwiched between the garage and the Wiley Building and was included in the historic review by National Parks Service.

Wiley Plaza residents can access the garage via a walk-way at the second floor, which spans across an alley, continues through the Theatre, and terminates at the upper level of the garage. Vertical access includes three stairways, and an elevator.

The Wiley Building’s renovation and parking garage construction became an opportunity to support the adjacent historic Fox Theater by providing sheltered parking on the ground floor for large “show trucks” to load and unload stage equipment. New stairs and elevators within the new parking garage provide better access to the theater’s upper-level storage areas and projection room by theater personnel. Additionally, the theater’s mechanical equipment was moved to the garage roof to protect it from copper theft.

Careful attention was given to the materials and massing of the garage so as not to detract from the neighboring Fox Theater. It is constructed of precast concrete with an adhered masonry veneer and open on three sides to allow for natural ventilation. While a taller garage was desired for more parking, it was limited to three levels to avoid blocking the view of the decorative elements along the top of the Theatre’s east façade. New city sidewalks and landscaping elements further enhance the structure.

Award Winning Project

  • Wiley Plaza Apartments
    Historic Renovation Award of Honor


  • Wiley Plaza Apartments
    Honor Award for Excellence in Rehabilitation

    Kansas Preservation Alliance

Measure of Success

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Project Overview






100 N. Main Street, Hutchinson, Kansas


92,000 s.f.

Parking Garage:

3.69 acres



Team Involved

Project Manager: Luke Scott, AIA Engineering: MKEC Contractor: Key Construction

Wiley Building Portfolio Project

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