A daunting economy isn't keeping Slawson Cos. from working on the next phase of the Oak Creek development on the southwest corner of 21st and Greenwich.
Slawson has hired Wichita's Architectural Innovations to design a new mixed-use area that will include retail, restaurants and offices.
"They are working on what we are calling Oak Creek Village ," says Slawson's Jerry Jones .
The 10-acre area will feature freestanding buildings with tile roofs and lots of masonry work.
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"It's not going to be a strip center," Jones says. "It will be a series of buildings along a drive that meanders parallel to 21st Street."
He calls it "kind of a cool concept."
"It ties in with the estates that are being built in there."
Brett Prather, president of Architectural Innovations, says there will be a lot of warmth to the development.
"It's a European-style village concept where people will park and walk from shop to shop," he says. "It's a very unique concept for the Wichita area.... Really, it's one of a kind.
"To us, it's exciting enough that we... are entertaining the thought of moving our office to that location."
The Village will be between Greenwich Road and the 3-acre Professional Offices at Oak Creek , which will be in the northwest part of Oak Creek.
"That will happen before the Village," Jones says of construction of the two areas.
He's negotiating deals for the office spaces now.
The Village will be built in phases. Jones isn't sure of a timeline yet.
"It's hard to predict," he says. "That's going to be market driven."
Architectural Innovations also is working on a plan for about 55,000 square feet of retail at NewMarket Square at 21st and Maize Road between Michael's and Petco .
Jones likes Architectural Innovations for a number of reasons.
"Their designs exhibit an excellent command of scale and detailing," he says. Plus, he says, "They're good listeners."
Even though it's a tough time in commercial real estate, Jones says lower construction costs and interest rates are appealing.
Also, he says, "If we can find some good tenants, then we'd be in a position we could move forward.
"We feel like we want to be positioned for when the market comes back."
The ever-popular Free State Brewing Co. in Lawrence is participating in the Midwest Beerfest Saturday and having a tasting at the Anchor that night, but that's not the exciting news for fans of the bar and its brew.
Starting Monday, four of Free State's beers will be available at liquor stores throughout the city.
Standard Beverage is distributing Free State's Wheat State Golden , Copperhead Pale Ale , Oatmeal Stout and Ad Astra Ale .
"Those are the ones that have been kind of our flagship beers since we opened 20 years ago," Free State owner Chuck Magerl says. "Those have been the perennial favorites."
He started selling bottles in Lawrence in May. Magerl thought he'd be in the rest of the state by June, but it didn't work out.
"The response in Lawrence was so great... we didn't even tiptoe our way to Topeka till August."
In September, he made it to Johnson County stores.
"So this month we're finally making it into the Wichita market," he says.
The demand has been so high, it's been a much slower process than Magerl expected.
"There are certainly worse problems in this economy," he says. "We're grateful for that."
Magerl says there's incredible growth in the craft beer industry nationally and in Kansas. He also notes that Wichita is a great dining town.
"We're excited about Wichita," he says. "It's a big step for us."
When Greg and Annette Helms bought Ty's Diner at 928 W. Second St. a year ago, they asked customers what they should change.
"Don't change a thing," came the numerous replies.
Except there's been one overwhelming request since then: Diners want to be able to pay with credit cards.
Greg Helms says he especially heard this after doing some recent advertising and seeing new diners arrive only to discover they couldn't pay with their cards.
Wednesday was the first day customers could pay with credit or debit cards.
Helms says it's a good thing, but he says, "Unfortunately everybody paid with debit cards today."
Open and shut
After less than a year in business, Top China Buffet has closed.
Jimmy Wu and his sister, Xiuzhen , opened the restaurant in the former Monterrey Mexican Grill space at 3320 N. Rock Road early this year.
Wu says his lunch business was fine, but dinner business wasn't.
Wu's New China Buffet at 4858 S. Broadway and New China , which does not have a buffet, at 1860 S. Hillside are still open and aren't going to close.
There's a chance Wu will open another restaurant here, but he says it probably won't happen for a while.
You don't say
"She said, 'Well, don't fix them because that's where I get half my business.' "
—City Council member Sue Schlapp quoting her physical therapist, Pam Palmer , who jokingly said she didn't want to see the seats at Century II renovated