A Wichita office developer has a contract to purchase the Northrock 14 Theatre, with plans to close the struggling movie house and develop 95,000 square feet of office space on two floors.
Gary Oborny, CEO of Occidental Management, said he hopes to close later this spring on a cash deal for the theater, owned by Overland Park-based Dickinson Theatres.
Terms of the purchase were not disclosed, but Oborny said the office conversion project, slated to open in the third quarter of 2012, will carry an $8 million price tag.
"Each floor will be 47,500 square feet of Class A at a two-floor minimum in a contemporary style," Oborny said. "We'll cut windows in the building, redo the outside in a pattern a little bit different than our other design, renovate the parking lot and landscape."
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The theater will be the second building of what Oborny envisions as a 200,000-square-foot, three-building Class A office complex at 32nd North and Rock Road, including the company headquarters at 8111 E. 32nd St. North.
That building, renovated in 2008, also was a Dickinson movie theater. Oborny said it has 6,000 of 84,000 square feet remaining. Tenants include Corporate Lodging.
Plans call for a third building between the headquarters and the theater, with between 20,000 and 30,000 square feet of office space, Occidental president Chad Stafford said.
"We're next to Rock Road, next to K-96, so the convenience of getting here from 96 just to the north allows all our different employees, customers and vendors to really get here from anywhere in Wichita in 18 minutes," Oborny said.
He said he has several large tenants on the hook for the new office facility, including some interested in as much as 40,000 square feet. Lease rates should range between $19 and $20 per square foot, about $2 under the city's going rate for Class A space.
The theater's closing date is up in the air, Oborny said, and will be tied to the purchase closing.
No general contractor has been selected, but Wichita architect Ron Spangenberg of Spangenberg Phillips Tice Architecture will design the new facility.
John Hartley, president of Dickinson, did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
The market for Class A office space in Wichita is showing signs of life, said Stan Longhofer, director of Wichita State's Center for Real Estate.
"Very clearly in the market right now, there's some good product and there's demand for it," he said. "There's average product and there's not a lot of demand for average product.
"People are always going to be interested in high-quality space, and since he can demonstrate what he's done with similar projects, that's a positive for him."
Northrock's closing leaves Warren Theatres as the sole Wichita movie operation, other than the Starlite Drive-In.
Nonetheless, Warren Theatres owner Bill Warren said the Northrock closing has no bearing on his business plans.
"They aren't a competitor. Haven't been for a long time," Warren said. "Entertainment is my competitor — baseball, basketball, events, things like that."