Consultant to work on recruiting retailers to downtown

Mike Berne, an urban retail consultant, will be in Wichita later this month to begin work identifying and recruiting niche retail to downtown.

Berne, the founder of MJB Consulting and a member of Goody Clancy's planning team for Project Downtown, the downtown master plan, will be in Wichita for a week, said Jeff Fluhr, president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp.

Berne's clients include downtown developers in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Toronto, St. Louis and Raleigh.

"Mike's coming in to help us develop information that can be used by the broker community," Fluhr said.

"There's information brokers need when they're trying to lease space for retail, restaurants. Demographics, traffic patterns, available space.

"We can have targeted messages for people locally, regionally and nationally to give developers a snapshot of whether this is a market they're interested in."

Berne, a member of the International Downtown Association Board of Directors, worked on leasing, acquisitions and marketing for a New York City-based urban retail developer before starting his own consulting firm.

Berne also will look for "emerging businesses" in Oklahoma City and Kansas City that might fit a niche in downtown Wichita.

"We want to create something like Old Town, more of a unique local and regional retailer, something people will drive into downtown to see," Fluhr said.

Berne also will recruit potential niche retailers for downtown Wichita, Fluhr said.

"Mike is out across the country working with people, and there are opportunities working with him to bring his connections here," he said. "He works on both coasts, working with cities comparable in size helping these cities come back.

"It's not the big retailers you saw here in the 1950s and 1960s. It's the niche retailers, the destination shops to get people downtown."