For years, Minnesota investor Steve Cheney says he hung onto the Kress Energy Center at the northwest corner of Douglas and Broadway because of its parking lot, which was key to making the nearby Exchange Place apartment project work.
Now, other developers are proceeding with that project and putting in a parking garage where the lot was, and Cheney says it was time to sell.
“I’m just too far away to manage it and run it,” he says. “The new owners are really responsible, and they’re really nice guys. … They’re going to jump in and turn this thing around.”
Gene Regier of CDK Wichita, a distributor of windows, cabinets and doors, and a business partner closed on the Kress purchase late Thursday.
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Cheney says he sold it at a bargain.
“It’s kind of like football,” he says. “You gotta punt once in a while. You gotta go backwards to go forwards.”
Regier and his partner purchased the Petroleum Building downtown last year and the Wonder Bread building at 601 N. Emporia the year before that.
They extensively remodeled the Wonder Bread space for CDK’s offices. They’re also investing in the Petroleum Building, including putting in a new HVAC system shortly.
“It’s a big investment,” Regier says.
He says the Kress won’t need as much updating.
“It’s one of the neatest-looking buildings in downtown Wichita,” Regier says. “It was one of the staple buildings in downtown Wichita. My grandparents used to shop there.”
He says the building was built in 1929 for a store that tried to set itself apart.
“They made it look like it was a fancy, high-dollar store.”
The six-story building has about 7,200 square feet on each floor.
Scott Rice Office Interiors on the first floor is the largest tenant in the building, which is about 60 percent occupied.
Regier says he has some potential tenants that could bring the building to 85 percent occupancy. He says the building will have 28 parking spaces in the new garage.
Ted Branson of Landmark Commercial Real Estate handled the Kress deal.
“It’s just gorgeous inside,” he says.
Branson says there are marble floors, mirrored walls and a fireplace on the top floor where Jamie Coulter used to have his Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon offices.
“It’s a diamond gem of downtown,” Cheney says.
Regier says he doesn’t have any other building purchases planned, but he says that could change.
“We’re always looking for deals.”