Carrie Rengers

Friends University abandons Douglas plans; two buildings back on the market

Three years after announcing plans for a $3.5 million renovation of two Delano buildings that it planned to use for its art department, Friends University has abandoned those plans and put the buildings on the market.

“Leadership really feels like this is in the best interest of students,” says communications director Gisele McMinimy. “It gets them back on campus.”

The school has been using a 10,560-square-foot concrete warehouse at 122 N. Walnut since the fall of 2012 but never did renovate or move into a 12,000-square-foot building at the northeast corner of Douglas and Walnut.

At the time the university announced its expansion plans in May 2012, then-president T.J. Arant said the art department needed more space and that the move would allow students to be part of a bigger arts community.

“That was a decision made by a previous administration,” McMinimy says. “I just would hate to speculate on why they thought that was a great idea to do that.”

She says that section of Delano is removed from campus.

“In recent history, the university has just really kind of been thinking about how well that’s working,” McMinimy says. “There’s just some challenges with having a location that’s about a mile off campus.”

She says transportation can be a problem for some students.

“A lot of the thinking is, is this working well for our students? We’re not sure that it is,” McMinimy says. “We just feel like it’s better for our students to be here on campus. … Overall, it just feels like a better fit for our students and that it just makes life a little easier for them.”

Dan Unruh of InSite Real Estate Group is helping the university sell the buildings and says they represent an opportunity for someone.

“In the Delano district, there are certain buildings you could identify as signature properties. Those that define the look and the character of the neighborhood,” he says. “This building at 930 W. Douglas is representative of the time period and the functionality of buildings around the turn of the century. … Anybody with a little vision can really see that this has a lot of character.”

The 2-story building has been home to, among other things, Farmers State Bank and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

Its listed on state and national historic registers.

Unruh says the building is on the market at an opportune time with the new River Vista apartments being built nearby, the prospect of a new library and general investment in Delano from a number of business people.

“It’s only a natural that this building will be seen by the investment community as a very exciting opportunity,” he says.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to market it to prospective users who share the vision of Delano that we all have come to know.”

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

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