Modern Style with a Touch of Whimsy

Living in and connecting with downtown Topeka

Article by Linda Ditch

Photography by Thomas Hall Eagle Aerial Solutions

Originally published in Topeka City Lifestyle

Ken Schmanke’s company, Townsite Tower QOZB LLC, purchased the former Bank of America Tower in 2020. Schmanke also leads the K1 Team, consisting of K1 Realty, K1 Facility, K1 Build, and K1 Hospitality. Almost immediately, the K1 Team began renovating the Downtown Topeka location now known as Townsite, consisting of the Townsite Tower, Townsite Plaza, and Townsite Commons at the 500 block of S. Kansas Ave.

Today, the location features an open event space on the 16th floor with walls of windows providing an unobstructed view across the city. The former bank lobby is an 18,000-square-foot ballroom. Updated offices and public areas, a new coworking space, a refreshed Townsite Café, and an eye-catching art design on the building’s exterior were also part of the upgrades.

During the remodeling process, a unique idea came to Schmanke and his wife, Julie: Why not live in the building, too? The result was a five-bedroom apartment with a style that is a delightful balance of modern and whimsy.

“It wasn’t really our intent to live here,” Schmanke says. “It was more an afterthought. We just thought about it for a bit and then decided to do it.”

The second-floor apartment has an open-concept plan, with the kitchen and dining area centered between two comfortable seating spaces. The massive windows overlooking Kansas Avenue are the main attraction. A glass wall divides the great room from an enclosed patio. The four guest bedrooms provide plenty of room for the couple’s four adult children and spouses to visit, including their first grandchild.

Schmanke says, “When we contemplated moving here, we considered living on some upper floors. I like this level of view because you can watch what’s going on more. You can look out the window and be a part of the downtown.”

The apartment’s layout and modern design are Schmanke’s contributions. That includes the charcoal-grey, two-foot square flooring throughout the space, which will withstand the wear and tear of the couple’s two dogs. He also installed the high-gloss Ikea kitchen cabinets himself.

All of the whimsical touches come from Julie, a wellness specialist for Brewster Place. Those playful elements include a monkey hanging over the top of a lampshade in the powder room, a skeleton in the master bathtub, and red, black, and white paper globes hanging over one of the seating areas. The artwork features animals behaving like humans: A monkey in a suit reading a newspaper, a zebra wearing high heels, and guinea pigs in sunglasses.

The couple moved into the apartment in the fall of 2022. Schmanke is surprised he doesn’t miss having a yard, though he thinks the dogs do to a certain extent. He also says they are entertaining more in the apartment than they did in their house.

“For me, there might be days that I don’t get in my car now since I work in the building,” he says. “Working in the building, people say, ‘Do you work more or less?’ I probably work a little bit less. Sometimes things are going on here that I think I need to be here for. Now, I can still be here but not be working.”

The Schmankes are the only Townsite live-in tenants, though he may install more apartments if the market warrants the move. Last year, Schmanke’s company purchased the historic U.S. Post Office building across from the Townsite location. The plan is to offer 50 apartments in that building.

Schmanke is adjusting to life in his urban neighborhood. “It’s a little different sense of community. It’s unique in that all types of folks are down here. People out walking their dogs and jogging. There are a lot of activities that go on that you can choose to participate in if you want, and we can walk to many of our favorite businesses now. Julie is counting the days until we can take our grandbaby to the splash pad at Evergy Plaza.”

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