Bradley Fair’s community engagement goes beyond usual shopping center

03/02/2014 8:03 AM

03/02/2014 8:03 AM

Wichita has plenty of shopping centers but very few lifestyle centers. The premier center, Bradley Fair at 21st and North Rock Road, was the original.

“I don’t feel like I’m in Wichita when I’m at Bradley Fair,” said Wichitan Brandi Koskie, an editorial strategist at Evomail. “It feels like a little escape.”

Koskie said she likes to stroll around the center, take in the view at its lake and let her daughter chase the ducks. Or she might meet a friend at YaYa’s EuroBistro to have lunch and share a bottle of wine.

She said she leaves “feeling like I stepped away for an hour or two.”

“There’s something about the way it’s designed and the flow and the whole environment over there. It feels nice.”

Developer George Laham admits to not entirely knowing he was creating what would turn out to be the definition of a lifestyle center when he started the development on four acres in 1990.

“There wasn’t even a term ‘lifestyle center,’ ” he said of that time.

Today, the open-air center is known for its concerts, holiday carriage rides and art fair.

Wichita “has embraced the community aspect of Bradley Fair,” Laham said.

The 40-acre center has 52 stores, such as Loft and the Fresh Market, and restaurants, such as Newport Grill and Redrock Canyon Grill.

“It says a lot for Wichita that we’re able to attract the stores and restaurants we have,” Laham said.

If you don’t believe him, consider a recent article in the Oklahoman. A story used Bradley Fair as one example of a successful lifestyle center in a place much smaller and less wealthy than Oklahoma City. One of the points of the article was: If Wichita can do it, why not us?

“You have to have a regional destination to attract the type of retailers we have,” Laham said.

Beth Tully said her Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolates has become a regional draw since it moved from Siena Plaza at 37th and North Rock Road to Bradley Fair in 2009.

She said it’s “the difference between being at the kids table and the big kids table.”

“It was probably the best move we’ve made up to this point,” she said of her almost 10-year-old business.

For instance, she said, a woman visiting Wichita was walking through Bradley Fair, came into her store and bought 20 boxes of chocolates.

“We have a lot of those stories that we never would have had before,” she said.

Laham said there will be announcements of new tenants in 2014.

“We want to constantly keep it new and exciting,” he said. “That’s what it takes to keep the center energized.”

Laham hints at changes but won’t be specific except to say they will be “to accommodate some new and very exciting stores and restaurants.”

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