Lawyer converting former church for biomed housing


Lawyer Abdul Arif is the latest person trying to take advantage of the coming Wichita Biomedical Campus by purchasing a building with plans to convert it — in this case to apartments.

“Having the biomed campus coming in definitely piqued our interest,” Arif said. “We feel like there’s tremendous opportunity there.”

There has been an ongoing building shuffle around the site where the Wichita Transit center is downtown along William between Broadway and Topeka, which is where Wichita State University and the University of Kansas Medical Center are planning the first phase of their new campus in 2026.

Unlike some of the people buying property near there, Arif is going a few blocks south of Kellogg to 944 S. Topeka, which he noted is not currently a good place to be.

“The opportunity is where most people think there isn’t any,” he said.

His philosophy is if it looks bad, “Then there’s probably money in it.”

Arif has purchased the one-time Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, which in 2006 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It eventually became home to Grace United Methodist Church, which closed in 2015 due to declining attendance.

The former church, which was built in 1910, and its former school, which was built in 1958, are about 40,000 square feet combined.

Arif plans to make the apartments safe for students by putting an iron fence around the property with a gate that takes a key card.

He expects the $3 million to $4 million conversion to be done by January.

There will be a green space, laundry and gym.

Unlike some of the luxury apartments around downtown and the river, which can cost between $1,200 and $1,800, Arif plans what he called safe, clean and affordable apartments that cost around $800 to $900 a month.

“The price point is where we think we’ll be better off,” he said. Students from the school “won’t mind driving another four blocks to go to our place.”

Arif has been involved with a number of projects around Wichita including three other multifamily developments. The latest is near WSU and is “coming up from the ground as we speak.”

Previously, he’s been involved with restaurants and commercial buildings among other things, but he said he’s now “transitioned over to being the multifamily real estate guy” because it’s safe.

“It doesn’t really matter what the economy does. People have to have a place to stay.”

Arif hasn’t named the apartments yet, but he said he wants it to go well with reclaiming an urban neighborhood so he’s planning “something appropriate to the mission of what we’re doing.”

This article was republished here with the permission of: The Wichita Eagle