Carrie Rengers

ES Development Midwest investors buy Commerce Plaza at auction

Les and Courtney Ruthven in front of their Commerce Plaza building, which will be auctioned on March 3.
Les and Courtney Ruthven in front of their Commerce Plaza building, which will be auctioned on March 3. File photo

Landmark Commercial Real Estate president Brad Saville confirms that he and Nick Esterline and a group of investors in ES Development Midwest are the ones who purchased Commerce Plaza and associated parking lots for $671,000 at auction last week.

“The building is very well built and maintained and has great potential for a variety of redevelopment alternatives, which we are evaluating,” Saville says. “The Douglas address is a bonus.”

Psychologists Les and Courtney Ruthven previously owned the 72,400-square-foot former Montgomery Ward building at the southeast corner of Douglas and Topeka. They planned to convert it into apartments but decided to sell it instead.

“We feel pretty good about it,” Les Ruthven says of the group that bought the building. “It’ll be interesting to see what happens.”

He says he’s still hoping it will become a residential development.

“For more downtown development, we need more residences downtown,” Ruthven says. “I think that would be the best direction to go.”

Whatever happens with the building, Ruthven says, “We wish the new owner to do well and make a lot of money on it, because I think that will be good for the community.”

The Ruthvens are moving their Mid-America Fine Arts gallery to another building they own at 2601 E. Central. It will be open by appointment only.

“We’ve accumulated a great deal of art,” Ruthven says.

“We’re in the process of moving about 800 pieces of art.”

He says his children don’t want to take over the gallery.

“We’ve got to do something with it.”

Ruthven says they aren’t sure what that will be yet, but they’d like to see collectors get it. He says they have about 450 works by noted Kansas artists such as John Steuart Curry, Henry Varnum Poor and the “marvelous” Clayton Staples.

“Just a host of very great Kansas artists,” he says. “Many people in Kansas are unaware of the rich artistic history of this state.”

Ruthven says he’ll let us know what he and his wife decide.

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or crengers@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @CarrieRengers.

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