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Wichita developers discuss projects at WIBA meeting

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, at 2:50 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, at 11:08 p.m.

Gary Oborny said he’s planning a parking garage for 400 cars and a facility for Amtrak at his company’s recently purchased Union Station property.

Johnny Stevens said he’s getting ready to break ground on the city’s first Whole Foods Market at his northeast Wichita development.

And Jerry Jones said he’s seeing national trends in retail real estate manifesting themselves at his company’s NewMarket Square development in northwest Wichita.

The three developers participated in a commercial real estate panel assembled by the Wichita Independent Business Association at its monthly meeting Tuesday at the Wichita Boathouse.

Oborny detailed some of the plans that his company, Occidental Management, is considering for the Union Station property it acquired from Cox Communications earlier this month. He said the new garage will give the property a total of 1,000 parking spaces. He said the main building could have a single tenant. At least that’s what he’s thinking now. “We see it being one large user that would take that location,” Oborny said.

The 9.5-acre property also would accommodate a new but much smaller Amtrak office and terminal should efforts to bring passenger rail service through Wichita succeed.

He said the plan is to develop the entire site — which also includes the former Grand Hotel and Rock Island baggage depot and other structures — in 12 to 24 months. He said that besides offices and restaurants, it could also accommodate specialty retail, a pharmacy and a grocery store, if the demographics can support those kinds of uses. “Wichita, I think, is at a crucial crossroads,” Oborny said. “… We need to continue to adapt to the population and where they are moving and how they live.”

Stevens, a partner with Steve Clark in the Waterfront development at 13th and Webb, said they will break ground soon on a store for Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market. “It’s taken us about six months just to go through the design process,” Stevens said. “It’s going to be a spectacular looking building for them.”

Stevens also told the audience — many of whom were bankers and commercial real estate brokers — that the current economic recovery “is one of the slowest recoveries I’ve been through.”

He said the recession had a severe impact on retailers and on an oversupply of retail properties. “I think we are seeing some daylight … things getting better in the retail area,” he said.

He said the other project he is working on, renovating the former Kansas Coliseum for the National Institute for Aviation Research, is progressing. He said removing the Coliseum’s seating, however, took longer than expected because of its tough, concrete construction. “It’s a much bigger project than I anticipated,” Stevens said.

Jones, vice president of Slawson Cos., said NewMarket has seen the effects of some national retail trends.

One is national retailers putting stores in smaller markets, such as Marshalls and Academy Sports.

He also said the shopping center at 21st and Maize has seen retailers “right-sizing” their stores. For some, right-sizing has meant retailers decreasing the square footage of their newer stores, such as Best Buy, a new tenant for NewMarket, and Old Navy, which shrank the square footage of the store it occupied at the center. But Jones added that the extra space Old Navy vacated was picked up by Maurices, which expanded its square footage at NewMarket. “We benefited in a positive way,” Jones said of right-sizing.

Reach Jerry Siebenmark at 316-268-6576 or jsiebenmark@wichitaeagle.com.

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