Politics & Government

City finds buyer for abandoned state office building

The former Finney State Office building in downtown Wichita has been sold.
The former Finney State Office building in downtown Wichita has been sold. File photo

The city of Wichita has agreed to sell the abandoned Finney State Office Building downtown for $710,000, officials announced Wednesday.

The Public Building Commission accepted that bid by local business owner Sudha Tokala for the 200,000-square-foot, city-owned office complex made up of joined buildings at 130 S. Market and 230 E. William.

Tokala said she plans to renovate the building as office space, possibly tearing down one of the structures to create room for parking.

She said her plan is to make the building “more contemporary, with a rustic look inside like something along the West Coast.”

Tokala has been an active investor in local real estate. She is a partner in two Wichita hotels and plans to develop a Staybridge hotel near Eisenhower National Airport northwest of Ridge Road and the Kellogg freeway.

About a week ago, she purchased 17.5 acres of school-surplus land near 29th and Woodlawn from the Wichita school district. She said she bought that as an investment and hasn’t decided what to do with it yet.

“We haven’t even paid for it yet,” she said.

She said her interest was sparked in the Finney Building because she thinks there’s a market for more upscale office space downtown, and the building could be had for a bargain price.

Built in 1927, the building housed Innes, Macy’s and Dillard’s department stores over the next 60 years.

But when retail moved to the suburban malls in the 1980s, the city repurposed the structure to provide low-cost office space for the Wichita operations of various state agencies.

The biggest tenant was the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, later the Department for Children and Families. At its peak, the building held 700 workers.

The bidding process was the final attempt to sell the Finney Building since Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration decided to move the state offices situated there to private-sector rental spaces about three years ago.

Tokala, who submitted the highest of five bids, had to provide a check equal to 10 percent of the bid as “earnest money” and has 30 days to close the sale.

The commission opted to dispose of the building as quickly as possible because it has cost $15,000 a month to keep it in mothballs – depleting the funds the commission would have needed to tear it down if it didn’t sell.

The commission put the building up for bids a month ago, shortly after the City Council rejected a plan for it by Tulsa-based developer Glenn Ferguson, the winner in an earlier round of proposals for the site.

Ferguson planned to significantly remodel the building to house classrooms and offices for college satellite campuses, along with restaurant and retail space and student-housing apartments.

He said he planned to invest at least $25 million in the renovation. But the council balked because Ferguson also asked for about $3 million in city support, including $1 million from the Public Building Commission and $2 million from the City Council.

The council’s contribution would have been paid back over 10 years from increased property tax proceeds.

The Public Building Commission is empowered to sell the building without City Council approval. Ferguson’s plan came before the council only because it included the proposed government support for the redevelopment.

Dion Lefler: 316-268-6527, @DionKansas

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