Developers announce plans to add Topeka Whataburger, subtract crime-ridden hotel

While the demolition of Travelers Inn may be on shaky ground, it has been confirmed that the first Whataburger is headed to the Capital City.
Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 9:06 AM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - While the demolition of Travelers Inn may be on shaky ground, it has been confirmed that the first Whataburger is headed to the Capital City.

During the Sept. 13 Joint Economic Development Organization meeting, developer Henry McClure stood up to speak to officials with the City of Topeka and Shawnee County about the Bring Back the Boulevard initiative.

Due to overwhelming interest in the area since Mainline Printing purchased its new facility at 2500 SW Topeka Blvd., McClure said his company successfully bought the ground lease which has allowed for a few new developments.

“The two deals that we’ve got at 32nd and Topeka Blvd., they’re steamrolling through - we don’t see a hitch in the get-along,” McClure assured government leaders.

As for those two deals, McClure mentioned Chick-fil-A, which the company announced would bring a second location to the Capital City in June. However, McClure also mentioned Topeka is set to get a new Whataburger.

“I’m massaging now one contract that we moved from 32nd and Topeka, where Chick-fil-A and Whataburger are in the process - I think everybody knows that by now,” said the retail developer.

According to McClure, the eventual plan is to redevelop a number of hotels in the area, including Travelers Inn, with city help and enhance Topeka. His ask of JEDO was to fund a $217,000 demolition of Travelers Inn.

“As we bring back the boulevard we need to focus on retail and retail development,” McClure said. “As we look at Topeka from a mile-high, we need to treat Topeka like a tourist town. We need to make Topeka so nice that the visitors want to stay longer and eventually want to move here.”

McClure said the removal of Travelers Inn would change the face of Topeka Blvd. from the infamous hotel to the Topeka Country Club Motel - which he also plans to demolish as soon as possible - and would ripple through other projects in the area.

To move forward, McClure said he needs the help of JEDO to demolish Travelers complete with a letter of intent from the new owner who is “delighted” to make a deal.

“We’re happy to close Travelers the minute we get an okay from you guys - or at least an agreement to move forward under certain stipulations,” said the Topeka developer. “As an operator today there is a no vacancy sign and they are not taking any other guests. We’re delighted to make a deal or have a deal crafted to get the hotel closed as fast as possible - not operating - and then have it removed from the face of the earth.”

As for the lodging license, McClure told leaders that as of Wednesday, Travelers still has one so that it may continue to operate as a hotel. Bids from different contractors have been submitted for the demolition.

“I know I’ve convoluted a lot of deals together, but that’s the nature of retail development, that’s really basically how you change the complexion of the boulevard.”

As JEDO does not have money to allocate to the project, the board said McClure would need to go through GTP and come back with a new proposal at the next meeting.