MICHAEL WILSON ~ Topeka Business Hall of Fame
Michael Wilson works to make his hometown a place where future generations will want to work and live. That means not only providing excellent professional services, but also giving his time and energy on a personal level.
FORMING A FOUNDATION
As so many young people do, Wilson had to leave home and experience the world before he could truly appreciate what he already had. A Topeka boy born and raised, Wilson headed to the slopes of Aspen right out of college to forge his own way in the world. It only took a couple of years for Wilson to realize his true home was back in Topeka.
When the architecture firm Wilson worked for in Topeka closed its doors in 1987, he leaped at the opportunity to buy them out. He opened the doors of Architect One in 1988 with two clients, some local connections and no idea what it would take to be a business owner.
“At 30, I was green enough not to know that I shouldn’t be doing that,” Wilson said. “All I knew was that I wanted to impact the architectural landscape of Topeka.”
BUILDING A CAREER
The impact that Wilson has had on the architecture of Topeka is evident all over town. While architecture is Wilson's profession, property development and restoration has become his forte'. With the development of Summerfield I and Summerfield II office parks, located just off of Fairlawn, Wilson began the foundation of a lifelong love of bringing new life to areas of town through building development.
"Originally I bought the ground to protect the gateway into my neighborhood,” said Wilson, who lives in Summerfield subdivision.
Those projects led to the renovation of 900 S. Kansas Avenue by Wilson, Daryl Craft and Mike Fox. Restoring the more than 100-year-old building meant creating modern executive suites while remaining true to its original character. The attention to detail and care involved in the restoration resulted in a listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
That was a turning point in Wilson’s life and career. Appreciation for his unique ability to combine his architectural expertise with his understanding of the complexities of historical building restoration grew. He soon found himself involved in numerous renovations of old buildings downtown, including the current home of Architect One at 906 S. Kansas Avenue, a building he owns with his business partner, Scott Gales.
BREAKING NEW GROUND
Being in the middle of the downtown redevelopment, both in physical location and through involvement in its visioning and planning over the years, has elevated business for Architect One and enabled the company to pick up clients it might not otherwise have engaged.
“Projects like the Cyrus Hotel and 101 Lofts wouldn’t have been viable if people hadn’t been willing to make the investment in downtown,” Wilson said. “We wanted to be part of that investment.”
Putting his money where his mouth is, Wilson looked at ways to expand the Kansas Avenue redevelopment beyond its designated end point at 6th Street. He and a group of investors took a risk and invested in an old, tired building at 1st and Kansas Avenue with “lofty” plans to provide stylish, modern living space downtown.
“It only seemed natural to take an eyesore and turn it into something beautiful to bring new life into an area that was previously dying,” Wilson said.
They transformed the former Seymour food processing facility into 33 two- bedroom living units called Kansas Avenue Lofts, which celebrated a grand opening in January. Wilson hopes the investment will eventually lead to more development along the riverfront.
“We have such a great natural resource here with the Kansas River,” Wilson said. “I hope we take advantage of it.”
ENJOYING THE VIEW
Even though building a business and bringing in new clients was harder than he expected, Wilson says if he had it do all over again, he would make the same decision.
“It was a great learning experience. I learned humility and gratitude from going through the struggle of trying to survive those first few years,” Wilson said.
That mindset of humility and gratitude has stayed with Wilson his entire career.
Wilson has served on numerous boards and committees, including Habitat for Humanity, Valeo Behavioral Health, Heartland Visioning, Momentum 2022, GO Topeka, Riverfront Task Force, the Mankind Project, and more. For Wilson, giving back to the community is not something to make a big deal over because it is simply the right thing to do.
“I am one of many within this community working toward betterment of our hometown,” Wilson said. “Why wouldn’t I want to improve quality of life and simply make a difference in a place that I love?”