Development at 47th south and I-135: Better access, no tenants

The large Southfork retail development planned for south Wichita recently cleared one hurdle, but the recession has raised another.

The development at the southwest corner of 47th South and I-135 would cover 50 acres and include large national retailers, restaurants and hotels, said developer Jay Maxwell.

Although the site is in a prime location along the highway, it was considered too expensive to develop because of poor access and the fact that Big Slough Creek runs through it.

The federal stimulus-funded reconstruction of the 47th Street interchange begun last month will take care of the access.

The $16 million project was the only one in Sedgwick County that received stimulus money. It was funded both because of the poor condition of the overpass and the economic development prospects.

And on Sept. 15, the Wichita City Council agreed to spend $1.5 million to reconfigure drainage in the site.

The city will supply $1.2 million and Maxwell, as the sole property owner affected, will be assessed for the remainder.

The project is needed, say city officials, because it will reduce flooding on the streets south of the property. The city found the money by bumping another drainage project.

But the recession has thrown up a new obstacle: Maxwell said retailers are no longer lined up to build in the development.

He said he'd like to break ground on the first phase next year, but he doesn't have anyone signed.

"Everything is in the tank," Maxwell said. "When they were ready, we didn't have the interchange. And now that it's under construction, we don't have anybody. It's kind of shifted all the way around in the last year and a half."

Grant Tidemann and Cristi Howell of J.P. Weigand, and Christian Ablah of Classic Real Estate are marketing the property.

Tidemann said it's difficult to say how long it will be before major tenants are signed.

But there is time because the highway interchange won't be finished for 18 to 24 months.

"I think its possible to sign somebody during the project, but it's hard to say for sure," he said.

Tidemann, who wouldn't say which chains he is approaching, said he sees the development looking a lot like One Kellogg Place, the shopping center on Kellogg east of Greenwich Road.

Maxwell also is pushing the city to spend money on a couple of smaller issues.

He wants to be able to loop the road running south through the project back onto Broadway through Custy Street.

He also wants the city and state to extend their work rebuilding the interchange east along 47th South to Hydraulic, where he has another property. He bought and demolished the old Funston school.