The Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas is looking for 30,000 square feet of office space in Wichita with its lease expiring next summer at 150 N. Main., one of the centerpieces of the Minnesota Guys’ downtown Wichita portfolio.
In a proposal released last week, the organization is seeking bids for the space, which must include sufficient parking and access to public transportation. Bids are due by 4 p.m. Feb. 3, and the alliance wants to occupy the space by July 1. It’s a move that downtown revitalization proponents want to prevent, for the employees and the clients the organization brings downtown.
Kimberly Chronister, public information officer for the Workforce Alliance, said the organization is required by law to put out a request for proposals any time “we want to do anything big, like a lease.” The RFP does not preclude the organization’s current landlord, Real Development, from bidding to continue the arrangement at 150 N. Main.
What’s less clear is whether the Workforce Alliance is willing to remain at 150 N. Main. Chronister declined comment, citing the legal restrictions of the request for proposals.
Real Development has been plagued by cash flow problems since the economic crash of fall 2008, which caused commercial credit to dry up nationwide. The company, headed by investors Dave Lundberg and Michael Elzufon, took a hit this summer when tenants at Real Development’s signature property, the Wichita Executive Centre, complained publicly that the building was poorly maintained, including major air conditioning failures during the summer heat wave and repeated elevator outages.
Lundberg acknowledged during a late August tenant meeting that his company lacked the money to properly maintain the building. Lundberg did not return calls Thursday seeking comment for this story.
Efforts are already underway to keep the workforce group in downtown Wichita, said Jeff Fluhr, president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp. The WDDC is working with brokers to identify all space downtown that meets the group’s criteria.
“The motive is increasing the commercial base downtown,” Fluhr said. “They have over 100 employees and they bring a large number of people downtown. We think it’s important to work with the current property owner and any other available space to keep them downtown.”
One Wichita broker thinks the center will have several options downtown, where buildings like the 28,000-square-foot Rainbows United facility are on the market, or outside downtown.
“They should have no trouble finding space,” said Patrick Ahern, a broker at Grubb & Ellis/Martens Commercial Group. “The market has been slow. There hasn’t been a lot of large users out looking for space in town or in downtown, so it’s a good time for them to be out looking.”
The proposal process includes several deadlines:
• 10 a.m. Jan 5. Public informational meeting at the workforce center, 150 N. Main.
• 3 p.m. Jan. 13. Pre-proposal questions are due.
• 3 p.m. Jan. 18. Pre-bid conference at the workforce center, 150 N. Main.
• 4 p.m. Feb. 3. Deadline for proposals to be received.