Carrie Rengers

Property across from Intrust Bank Arena to be redeveloped

Mike Snyder, left, Bruce Rowley, center, and Alan Banta are planning a new mixed-use development across from Intrust Bank Arena.
Mike Snyder, left, Bruce Rowley, center, and Alan Banta are planning a new mixed-use development across from Intrust Bank Arena. The Wichita Eagle

For Bruce Rowley, part of the appeal of moving his RSM Marketing Services to Commerce Street across from Intrust Bank Arena two years ago was to be part of the redevelopment and excitement of the arena district.

Except then nothing happened immediately across from the arena’s entrance, which is just over from Rowley’s office at 400 S. Commerce. Instead, Lexus has a lease for VIP parking on the same lot as a dilapidated building.

“And that’s our front door for thousands of visitors,” Rowley says.

“Every day I walk into our conference room for the last two years, and I’m just like, ‘Why?’ … I’ve been very disappointed that that’s what we the city have allowed to happen.”

So Rowley, RSM partner Mike Snyder and Alan Banta of Trans Pacific Properties have purchased the lots through their Commerce Street Development Partners.

That’s the entity that owns and redeveloped their building, which features a few shipping containers as offices amid more traditional spaces.

The group now has purchased two properties near St. Francis and Waterman where the VIP parking is. They plan a mixed-use residential and retail development that possibly will be made from recycled shipping containers.

“Currently we’re looking at lots of different options,” Rowley says.

He says he wants something “very innovative” and “that works well with that neighborhood but also (enables) it to be a showcase for the city.”

“We’d prefer not to build something very bland right at the entrance to the arena.”

Rowley says he also wants to be careful to not build “something that belongs at 21st and Greenwich. We want to be sensitive to that.”

The upcoming NCAA Tournament is part of what prompted Rowley and his group to act now, though they won’t be able to build in time for March.

“So our plans are, first and foremost, when the lease is finished … to take the building down,” Rowley says.

That will be at the end of this year.

“It’s not only an eyesore. It’s, frankly, a hazard.”

There’s a six-foot drop “if one was to kick open the plywood covering what used to be doors,” and he says there’s open sky above.

Rowley says they’ll pave the area before the tournament.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a great positive, but it is the absence of a negative.”

Rowley says the building likely will be several stories and a total of 25,000 or 30,000 square feet.

“We have a lot of flexibility for building on it,” he says. “You can configure it lots of different ways.”

Rowley says even just one floor up, city skyline and river views are “pretty astonishing.”

“The views to the west and to the north are phenomenal.”

He says he and his partners are at the beginning of exploring what potential tenants may want. He says he knows there will be interest in the shipping containers based on reactions he’s seen from visitors to his office.

“It’s so funny,” he says. “Everyone who comes over, they’re just so drawn to those.”

In addition to being intriguing, Rowley says the containers are “also a good fit for that area because (they’re) industrial and creative.”

Rowley says he prefers that the development face Waterman instead of St. Francis so the front is visible from the arena.

Though he would have preferred for something to happen earlier, Rowley says now is a good time for something new as Cargill prepares to build its new building and Union Station continues to grow. Both of those properties back up to Waterman.

“We’re excited about the redevelopment of that corridor,” Rowley says.

He says the area across from the arena is of particular interest to a lot of people since nothing has happened there yet.

“It’s exciting to … begin to have a different vision for it. That makes me really happy.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers