Restoring History with a Modern Twist

Photos by DAVID VINCENTmarkb

EVERY INVESTOR HOPES to discover the next best thing and create something interesting and new in the community. Some find it beneficial to work with the history that is abundant in Topeka to create something different, something new. Mark Burenheide is taking key parts of the Topeka area and restoring them to their beautiful origins with a modern twist.

Mark, a lifelong resident of Topeka, Washburn University graduate, and a trust officer at Capital City Bank, knows the history and beauty hidden in this community and wants to help change the negativity in Topeka and downtown.

markb2“This type of thing is happening all over the country, where cities are reclaiming their downtowns,” Mark said. “It’s like a city’s living room where people come together and enjoy festivals and activities.”

Mark says he always looked at Topeka as having bits of history that need to be reclaimed and appreciated. For nearly 15 years he has been doing just that, buying properties and refurbishing them to their former glory. Some projects have been sold to private buyers, while others have been opened up to renters.

“I’ve had a passion for old buildings,” Mark said. “First thing we ever did, my wife and I, when we were in law school, we bought a house in Holiday Park. It had no plumbing, no heating, no cooling—it was a shell.”

markb1He realized then that he wanted to restore buildings because he had love of history and architecture, and the stories behind them. Mark transitioned into investment properties and began work on the 301 and 929 South Kansas Avenue properties. These loft style apartments, which are a throwback to Kansas Avenue in its former glory, rarely have vacancies because of the number of working professionals searching for urban living space.

The latest development has been the Jackson Street Lofts at 735 South Jackson Street. Mark remodeled the former Assumption School into 21 urban lofts that are just a short walk from the State Capitol and the new pocket parks on Kansas Avenue. Not only are these lofts close to a number of restaurants and shops, but they also claim a rich pedigree of history.

“The same architect that designed this building designed Topeka High,” Mark said.

markb3Each space in the Jackson Street Lofts has small touches of the former elementary school with blackboards and large windows. Some apartments are former nuns’ quarters and fittingly frame the nuanced historical flair.

Mark has a belief that you can make change “one building at a time.” He has more ideas to create and uncover hidden gems in the area, but for now he’s focused on finishing out the Jackson Street Lofts, where the waitlist for these newly renovated apartments is growing. TK