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Wichita school district shops downtown building to potential buyers

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, March 6, 2013, at 10:26 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, May 11, 2014, at 7:35 a.m.

The Wichita school district’s administration building in downtown Wichita isn’t officially on the market, but the district has shopped it around to potential buyers.

Superintendent John Allison said Wednesday that the nine-story Alvin E. Morris Administrative Center at 201 N. Water – commonly referred to by its acronym, AMAC – “is not listed for sale.”

But he confirmed that a broker working on behalf of the district has approached potential buyers to offer tours and gauge interest in the building.

“What we have done is try to assess what its potential value might be,” Allison said. “We have done that for a couple other properties in the district as well.”

District leaders are evaluating how to proceed with 15 unfinished bond issue projects, including a proposed new high school in southeast Wichita.

As part of that – and following the closure of five school buildings last spring prompted by budget cuts and new attendance boundaries – Allison has said he is compiling a “master plan” of district properties to present to board members.

One option, he said Wednesday, might be to relocate administrative offices from downtown to the current Southeast High School, at Lincoln and Edgemoor.

“Every option’s on the table when we think about Southeast,” he said. “Regardless of where you stand, whatever recommendation is made … I like to do my due diligence, and that’s what I owe the board.

“Looking at options doesn’t necessarily mean any decision’s been made, because there’s been no discussion by the board.”

The appraised taxable value of the administrative center – formerly the Colorado-Derby building, just north of Century II at First and Water – is more than $3.2 million, according to Sedgwick County tax records.

Max Cole, a longtime developer in Wichita, said he toured part of the building with real estate agent Grant Tidemann last weekend. He said his understanding was that Tidemann was exploring the reception the building would get if it were to formally go on the market.

Cole said he isn’t interested in buying the building, saying that it would be expensive to upfit as apartments or modern offices. It lacks a sprinkler system and isn’t fully ADA compliant, he said.

“It’s going to require so much,” Cole said. “It’s very dreary.”

A message left for Tidemann was not returned Wednesday.

School leaders must decide in coming months whether to go ahead with construction of a proposed new high school on land the district owns near 127th Street East and Pawnee. Allison said they have the money to build and operate a new high school or expand and renovate the existing Southeast High, but not both.

At one point city and county officials had considered locating a city-county law enforcement training center at Southeast High, but those talks seem to have stalled.

At Monday’s school board meeting, Builders Inc. president Mike Garvey, who owns property near Southeast High School, urged board members not to move or repurpose the school.

“No one really seems to know about your plans to replace the high school with either the executive offices of USD 259 … or as a training facility or emergency facility for Sedgwick County, or as a facility for special classes,” Garvey said Monday night.

“I ask that you please tell people why you are wanting to move the high school … from an area where it’s served the community for 56 years.”

Board president Lynn Rogers responded: “The reason that we haven’t talked about it is, we have not talked about it at the table here.

“There have been items in the paper, but it has not come from us,” Rogers said.

“No decision’s been made. We are just at a standpoint where we’re starting to ask questions and to look at what our options could be and what might happen down the road.”

The board will hold a special informational meeting Monday to talk about remaining bond issue projects.

Allison said he didn’t know whether board members will discuss options for Southeast, but added, “Southeast will not be an empty building.”

Bond managers said the district already has made about $1.3 million worth of improvements to Southeast High from 2008 bond money, including auditorium renovations, a new track and all-weather turf for its practice field.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @Suzanne Tobias.

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