The university and its students are beginning to slowly transfer to downtown as the long awaited Block 22 project closes in on its completion. Although many updates have been announced lately regarding the projects, one of the biggest is that it’s apartments are now officially filled for the year.
“We’re very proud of the fact that we were able to announce that we’re full,” director of strategic communications Brett Dalton said. “The university housing office just did a terrific job of managing this whole thing because this is new to everybody. We have our traditional residence halls on campus and the housing office has enough to do with trying to manage those and then to add this to their plate was something that was obviously a big task and they handled it brilliantly. Really, the housing office deserves the most credit for being able to say we’re full. They worked hard to not only market the spaces, but provide the students with information and handle all the sign ups. I really can’t say enough about all they did to make sure that this thing is successful.”
After spending so much time and effort on this downtown revitalization project, Dalton and others are happy to know that this first step has officially been taken towards getting students into Block 22.
“I think when we started this, we knew they would be popular,” Dalton said. “We knew there would be a big demand, but this is sort of a new endeavor for us, so the idea of filling up and filling up so quickly was one of those things that you hope for, but in the back of your mind you’re asking yourself, ‘is it really going to happen?’ You just don’t know until it flies. But we built it, and the demand of the students was incredibly high. There’s a tremendous interest in living downtown, especially with the way downtown is shaping up and being revitalized and coming back to life. Plus, they’re just really cool apartments. They’re going to be awesome to live in.”
While the students living in Block 22 will not have their own dining hall, four restaurants will occupy the spaces downstairs. The new eateries will be Toast, a toast-themed casual eatery, Brick + Mortar, a California-foodie favorite looking to find new roots in Pittsburg, and Cali Burrito, a Chipotle style Mexican restaurant. Additionally, Root Coffeehouse and Creperie will be moving from their downtown location on ninth street to a new spot in Block 22.
“We’re excited,” Dalton said. “We think the dining options are going to be huge not only for the students who are going to live at Block 22, but the entire community. I think for a long time we’ve all sort of hoped for more options downtown, and that’s not to take anything away from the restaurants that are already downtown, but I think we can all agree that more options are better–more variety. So, we’re excited to have those in place. I think, honestly, it will transform the downtown experience. Say you want to go downtown to the bank or you want to go to Root or some of the boutique shops between fifth and sixth street, or even a show at Memorial Auditorium, you can go and have a really good dinner downtown. Then, maybe, you can walk to a shop or walk down to get some coffee, walk to a show, and just kind of have that true downtown experience.”
In addition to the restaurants, seniors Brittan Brenner and Kailey Pearson will be opening their business, Sonder and Co. It will be a boutique-style shop to display the works of local artists. The project is funded by their winnings from the Kansas Entrepreneurship challenge.
“If you think about what the business is, the fact that it’s run by two students and it’s in Block 22, that really captures what we’re trying to accomplish here which is not to just bring new businesses downtown and new apartments, but to promote and cultivate this culture of entrepreneurship and innovation,” Dalton said. “That doesn’t mean people in their fifties who have enough money to do that. It’s college students. It’s young people. It’s people saying ‘we have an idea. We can make it fly. We have the resources and the knowledge and the education through the university and we want to try this’. That’s what life is and that’s what Block 22 is. We’re just going to have to try this and see if it goes.”
While many are eager for the project to be finished, the excitement is even stronger for those like Dalton who have been waiting patiently for Block 22 since the beginning.
“The date has always been August for it to open,” Dalton said. “The way certain things have gone, the whole thing won’t be done in August, but the apartments will be done. Students will begin living there in August. I’m just like, how is it June already? We’re just two months away. When you’re at the beginning of a project that you knew was going to take years to finish, once you get to that point, you wonder how all that time passed already. But we’re here now. This dream that we’ve all had and been talking about forever is shaping up to be a reality. I think these next few months are just going to show tremendous progress and things are really going to start to shape up.”
As these final few months of the project wind down, their timeline will slowly speed up. Students will move in next month. The Foundry, which will be filled with businesses showcasing the entrepreneurial spirit of the project, will begin to fill up and businesses will move in around September. Finally, the restaurants will move in in October. However, Dalton emphasizes that Block 22, especially for the first year, will be an ever growing project and he, as well as other members of the team to make the project happen, can’t wait to see how it will grow.