Auction expected to clear former Wal-Mart store, but what’s next for space?

Josh Nunley moves fixtures to be auctioned at the former Walmart Neighborhood Market at 13th and Oliver. (May 10, 2016)
Josh Nunley moves fixtures to be auctioned at the former Walmart Neighborhood Market at 13th and Oliver. (May 10, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

A sign inside the old Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market at 13th and Oliver on Tuesday read “everyday low price $1.54,” though no consumers have been through the store in months.

Closed in January, the location was one of five smaller Wal-Mart locations to shut its doors in the Wichita area this year. Rows of shelving units, checkout stands and refrigerated cases could be seen in the space Tuesday.

An online auction – which will attempt to liquidate basically everything not attached to the 35,000-square-foot building – began earlier this month and ended Wednesday night. The building, which Wal-Mart still owns, is on the market for $2.6 million.

John Lines, CEO of Surplus Asset Management out of Arizona, said he expects nearly everything to be sold once the auction ends.

“It’s an absolute auction,” Lines said. “If something sells for a dollar, it sells for a dollar. We anticipate everything will be gone.

“If something is left, which rarely happens, it will be removed from the store. Our goal is to have zero landfill stuff – if it can be recycled, we’ll recycle it.”

While it’s the job of Lines’ company to empty the building, the next question is what will become of the space. Troy Farha, a commercial real estate adviser with NAI Martens, said he wouldn’t be surprised if the former Wal-Mart store, which is for sale, remains empty for at least a couple of years.

“I could see that building as a redevelopment project, maybe for a government services operation or nonprofit organizations,” Farha said. “There’s not as much traffic at that location when compared with some of the other big box buildings around the city.

“There’s also potential for a special-use facility, such as a storage facility or a call center. We could possibly see another grocer go there, but I think that’s less likely.”

Lines said his company handles 15 to 20 online and live auctions per month, mostly doing business with grocery store chains. Buyers, he said, run the gamut from small-business owners to restaurants and large grocery chains.

Asset Management has been busier, Lines said, following Wal-Mart’s decision this year to close more than 250 stores nationwide. The company is also handling auctions for the former Neighborhood Market locations at 601 N. West St. and 9831 E. Harry in Wichita.

Most of the closures were of the company’s smaller store brands, such as its Neighborhood Market and Wal-Mart Express locations.

Sheila Lowrie, a spokeswoman for Dillons, said she didn’t have any updates on the possibility of the Kroger-owned grocery chain entering any of the vacated Wal-Mart buildings in Wichita.

“Any anticipated moves to operate at these locations should be considered rumors and speculation,” Lowrie said in an e-mail.

Bryan Horwath: 316-269-6708, @bryan_horwath