Carrie Rengers

Farmers to combine offices at Northrock

Farmers Insurance is consolidating its property claims and auto casualty claims offices into one location at Occidental Management's Northrock office building at 32nd North and Rock Road.

The 7,000-square-foot space at Northrock isn't larger than the two offices currently have, nor does it particularly create efficiencies.

"It's more to give our employees a better facility with... nicer and larger conference rooms, training rooms and more work space, basically," says Rob Koch , assistant vice president for property claims.

The property office currently is at 8200 E. 34th Circle. The auto casualty office is at 9340 E. Central.

The offices, which will be called HelpPoint Claim Services by Farmers , will be in the new space by the first week in June.

Occidental's Brady Miller handled the deal along with Jeff Englert of Grubb & Ellis/Martens Commercial Group .

"We're very pleased with this lease to now have the Northrock office building 92 percent occupied," says Occidental CEO Michael Monteferrante .

The space left to lease is 5,000 square feet.

"The overall 32nd and Rock development has come along very nicely also," Monteferrante says of the retail segment of the development.

"The whole corner has turned out to be very vibrant."

Plan II

Metro Grill owner Michael Gonzalez is still opening a new restaurant, but not where he originally planned.

Gonzalez's Metro Grill stand is at Towne East Square , which is where he also hoped to have a sit-down restaurant.

Instead, he's going to open Metro Grill II at 366 N. Rock Road, in a building that's been home to Plant and Patio and Rugs to Riches in recent years.

"It's going to be amazing," Gonzalez says of the three-level space.

He plans to have the kitchen be a central part of the restaurant by putting it by the windows that face Rock Road and by leaving it visible for diners to see throughout the restaurant.

"When you're sitting in the top level you can look down and see the entire kitchen operation," Gonzalez says.

The focus will be on Cuban cuisine with pasta, sandwiches and salads, including the dishes he's already serving at Towne East.

"It's going to be very casual," Gonzalez says. "We're trying to create a fast-food gourmet concept."

He says it will take him about three months to convert the space into a restaurant.

"We're pushing for July," Gonzalez says.

Metro Grill II will open by August at the latest.

Gonzalez won't change anything at his original Metro Grill.

"This is my baby. This is where everything started."

Short and sweet

The Wichita Association for Motion Picture Arts has changed its name to the much-less-cumbersome Tallgrass Film Association .

"The Wichita Association for Motion Picture Arts is a long-winded thing to say," says Mike Marlett , executive director. "When I have to say that and then have to throw in 'which sponsors the Tallgrass Film Festival ,' it gets really long."

The late Tim Gruver founded WAMPA eight years ago when he started the film festival.

"It sort of amused him to have the WAMPA acronym," Marlett says.

He says Gruver, a Native American, liked that WAMPA sounded like the Native American word wampum.

"It's not that amusing when you try to use it all the time," Marlett says.

He says the change will help streamline marketing efforts.

"We'll be able to make better use of our marketing and be able to promote things year round that in a way advertises what we're doing in the fall" with the festival, he says. "That's a very helpful thing for us."

Marlett says the association will take this time to do a new push for members, too.

He says using the new name instead of the old one will be easier for them — not to mention him.

"My jaw physically gets tired of it."

Projects are Key

Key Construction laid off seven of its 110 employees in Wichita last week, including four assistant project managers and three clerical workers.

"We've got a couple of projects wrapping up," says chief financial officer John Walker .

There are some new projects on the horizon, he says, "But not as soon as we'd like."

Financing and getting commitments take longer than in the past.

"Everything takes a little bit longer to start right now," Walker says.

About a month ago, Key laid off five of its 26 workers in its Dallas-Fort Worth office.

Walker says that area is much harder hit.

"We have so many opportunities down in that office that we don't have in other markets, but you still have to adjust to the amount of work that you have and that you're going to get."

Key has a total of 175 employees.

"There's a lot of good things happening," Walker says. "We just need them to happen faster."