Carrie Rengers

Commerce Plaza building to be auctioned

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

In October, Les and Courtney Ruthven told Have You Heard? they were close to deciding to convert their Commerce Plaza building in downtown Wichita into apartments unless something else came up.

Something has.

“We had about a dozen or more people and developers look at the building,” Les Ruthven says. “But none of them would move. My wife and I got tired of that (and) just put it up for auction. Let them fight about it.”

McCurdy Auction will auction off the 72,400-square-foot former Montgomery Ward building at noon on March 3 at the property, which is at the southeast corner of Douglas and Topeka.

The building and an adjacent parking lot will be auctioned together, and some parking lots across the street will be auctioned separately.

“We wouldn’t mind keeping the parking lots across the street ourselves,” Ruthven says.

He says some of the building’s potential owners are interested in the extra parking, though.

“Then we can just be over and done with it,” Ruthven says. “We’re trying to simplify our life.”

He says he and his wife are big proponents of downtown. They bought the five-story Commerce Plaza, which was built in 1931, in 1995.

The two are psychologists and moved their Preferred Mental Health Management to the space and leased to office tenants.

They sold their mental health firm to their daughters, who now have it as a division of their Family Health America. That firm moved from the building in August.

The Ruthvens also have a gallery, Mid-America Fine Arts, on the building’s third floor that they’ll move to a building they own at 2601 E. Central.

Ruthven says his wife has been managing Commerce Plaza.

“It’s a hassle managing anything,” he says.

Ruthven says they’ll be able to go on vacation more easily without having to worry about the building.

He says the building has meant a lot to them, though.

“It’s a great building, very well-built,” Ruthven says. “I’ve been told you can put another four or five stories on it.”

He says he and his wife don’t have a preference as to whether the building becomes residential or remains office space. Either way, Ruthven thinks its occupants could get a good deal.

For office space in particular, he says, there are “tremendous buys” downtown compared to other parts of the city.

“You’d do quite well in any building downtown.”

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