After a particularly lean three years, Wichita finally saw significant retail activity in 2011. Commercial brokers say that gives them a lot to build on in 2012.
“We’re just getting ready to take off,” said Brad Saville, president and CEO of Landmark Commercial Real Estate.
“The first sign was that almost all the junior box and big box vacancies have gotten filled up,” he said.
Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage took the former east-side Borders Books space. Sephora opened at Bradley Fair, Ulta Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrance stores opened on the east and west sides, and several Walmart Neighborhood Markets, Dollar General and Family Dollar stores opened throughout Wichita.
“The last three years, the national retailers were looking for deals and bargains, and now we’re back to, ‘We’ve got to build,’ ” Saville said.
The most obvious example: Cabela’s. The Nebraska-based giant national outdoor retailer is building an 80,000-square-foot store at the Regency Lakes shopping center at 21st and Greenwich. It opens March 15.
Later this year, the Fresh Market upscale grocery chain will open in the former Ultimate Electronics space at Bradley Fair. This is the farthest west the Greensboro, N.C.-based chain has come so far.
Ross Dress For Less also is entering the Wichita market with two stores: one at the Eastgate shopping center at Kellogg and Rock, and one at Westgate at Kellogg and Dugan.
Doug Malone, a broker with J.P. Weigand & Sons who helped handle the west-side Ross deal, said there are a lot of national retailers that aren’t in Wichita that eventually will come.
“It’s a function of when,” he said.
Malone said it’s also going to take time for the retail market to build back up to what it was.
“We have a long ways to go to get it back to where it was in 2007.”
Still, he said, “It feels better than it did a year ago.”
His colleague, broker Leisa Lowry, said she’s “definitely busier” these days.
“I’m far busier this year than … the previous three years,” she said.
Lowry, who does a lot of restaurant deals, said several fast-casual concepts are looking to possibly come to Wichita.
There are several done deals, too. Pita Pit is returning to the market with a new restaurant at 3242 N. Rock Road. Mooyah will be opening at least one restaurant here in 2012, most likely on the west side.
Then there’s the restaurant generating the most buzz: Chick-fil-A. Its east-side site at Central and Rock Road will open March 15. A west-side site near the southwest corner of 21st and Maize Road will open later this year.
At that same intersection, NewMarket Square has attracted a slew of new retailers. Kay Jewelers, Carter’s and Men’s Warehouse are just a few of the new national tenants. Marshalls, a sister store to T.J. Maxx, is seriously eyeing the former Borders Books space there in addition to an east-side site.
A couple of gyms, Planet Fitness and Gold’s Gym International, are finalizing deals for several Wichita sites each.
Local retailers are busy, too.
Dondlinger and Sons Construction is opening two Williams Ace Hardware stores in coming months. The first will open in late March in the former White’s Foodliner building in Goddard. A second store will open in the former Ace Hardware in Andover at 642 N. Andover Road about a month later.
Brokers say there have been a lot of renewals in the market as well.
“It’s a testament that retailers are filling these spots up,” Saville said.