TOPEKA (KSNT) – The Wolfe’s Camera store closed in July will find new life as an Innovation Center.

The ASTRA (Animal Science, Technology, Research, and Agriculture) Innovation Center will be a 60,000-sf project anchoring a new ASTRA Innovation District in downtown Topeka.  The development will repurpose the historic Wolfe’s Camera Shop at 635 S Kansas and will involve two adjacent properties at 633 S Kansas through to 627 S Kansas. Additional partner tenants will be announced at a later date.

The former Wolfe’s Camera will be repurposed in downtown Topeka. (KSNT/Michael K. Dakota)

“The acquisition of the Wolfe’s Camera property by our partner BioRealty to house Topeka’s Innovation Center is the second big milestone in building Topeka into a hub of innovation in the Animal Health Corridor after attracting Plug and Play,” said Katrin Bridges, senior vice president of innovation, GO Topeka. “I am thrilled that Topeka has chosen to fully subscribe to this vision and I know it will pay huge dividends in the future in terms of higher wage jobs, opportunities for local and regional talent and investments in innovative, futureproof companies.”

The Center is expected to create 20-40 full-time jobs in the coming years, with an anticipated annual economic impact of $8.3 million. Over 10 years, the total economic impact is expected to reach $1.345 billion.

“This will be a fantastic addition to Downtown Topeka,” said Rhiannon Friedman, president of Downtown Topeka, Inc. “When we envision the future of this space, and the entire innovation district itself, we look to what it can do to better serve the startup community and expose new people to the amenities and businesses that Downtown offers them.”

Wolfe’s Camera will close its doors on July 31, 2021 after 97 years. (Michael K. Dakota / KSNT)

In a press release GO Topeka said the campus will be developed to take advantage of 20 global startups participating each year in the city’s new Plug and Play Animal Health accelerator program. The ASTRA Innovation Center will offer world-class facilities, including wet labs, flexible work and meeting spaces. It will feature office space for business research and innovation, as well as a rooftop venue for events.

GO Topeka, the economic development group for the Greater Topeka Partnership, announced today it partnered with BioRealty, Inc. and closed on multiple properties in downtown Topeka, as part of previously announced $14.5 million innovation campus approved by the Joint Economic Development Organization (JEDO) in May 2021. The new campus is designed to take advantage of the arrival of Plug and Play’s Animal Health / Ag Tech Startup Accelerator program.