November 11, 2013

High Touch buying building that houses its downtown Wichita headquarters

In a move touted as a significant step for downtown, High Touch Technologies is buying the building that houses its headquarters at 110 S. Main.

In a move touted as a significant step for downtown, High Touch Technologies is buying the building that houses its headquarters at 110 S. Main.

The Wichita company has been leasing four floors of the 10-story building since 2007 and said Monday that it is making the purchase because it wants more control over the troubled building – which is in a prominent place downtown – and room for growth.

High Touch provides IT and technology-related services to small and midsized companies across the country. It has 175 employees, including 126 in Wichita. The company was founded in 1984 by two Wichita programmers and their former professor at Wichita State University. The company is owned by its employees and has locations in Kansas City; Dallas; Corpus Christi, Texas; and Denver.

Terms of the deal with the building’s owner, Chicago-based Main and Market Streets LLC, were not disclosed, although High Touch president Wayne Chambers said the price was fair.

Chambers said the company has signed a purchase agreement for the building and is doing its due diligence.

High Touch has already invested $1.8 million into upgrading its space, but the building has become rundown overall, according to a lawsuit High Touch filed in April against Main and Market. In the suit, High Touch contended that the elevators are “unsafe, inoperable and continue to strand riders or deliver them to the wrong floor.” High Touch is on the sixth through ninth floors.

Last month, Main and Market was found to be in default of its obligations under the lease, but no damages have been awarded yet.

Chambers said High Touch is committed to making significant investments in the building. It is seeking up to $2 million in industrial revenue bonds, which would exempt improvements from property taxes.

High Touch and other tenants use about 75,000 square feet of the building’s 105,000 square feet. It is seeking tenants for about 30,000 square feet of vacant space.

The former Macy’s parking deck across the street, also owned by Main and Market, was closed by the city last year as unsafe. Chambers said High Touch employees used that parking garage for several years and losing it was an inconvenience, but they now park at the Intrust Bank parking garage. According to court records, the city of Wichita has won a judgment against Main and Market.

Chambers is interested in again being able to use the parking deck, but he said its condition didn’t factor into the decision to buy the building.

Chambers said the employee-owners of High Touch opted to buy the building because they liked being downtown and the building gives them room to grow.

“We have a strategic plan going forward, and the plans are to grow and that will come in the Wichita office,” he said. “Being downtown is a good thing for our growth plans. Everybody likes being here, and this shows our commitment to the community and to what’s happening downtown.”

Replacing an underfunded out-of-town property investor with a fast-growing and highly committed local company is a huge win for downtown, said Jeff Fluhr, president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp.

“It’s a really important announcement,” Fluhr said. “They’ve chosen to put their corporate headquarters in Wichita, in the downtown. This will only solidify their commitment to the community.”

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