A Growing Number of National Retailers Have Wichita on Their Radar Screen

The pace of retail construction remains brisk in Wichita with national retailers showing an increased interest in the market. In the first quarter, developers started construction on nine buildings totaling 112,961 square feet, reports brokerage firm NAI Martens.

Completions during the first quarter totaled 117,300 square feet. Notable store openings included Sprouts Farmers Market at Central Avenue and Rock Road; Save-A-Lot grocery store at 1640 S. Broadway; Cavender’s western wear store in Greenwich Place at K-96 and Greenwich Road; Andy’s Frozen Custard at NewMarket Square along 21st Street; and a freestanding Starbucks at Wichita State University on the school’s innovation campus.

In short, developers in Wichita appear to be making up for lost time. As a result of the Great Recession, the local economy shed 30,000 jobs between 2009 and 2011, many of them related to the aviation industry, according to the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce. Commercial real estate activity ground to a halt at that point.

“Between 2008 and 2012 and maybe into 2014, we just didn’t have much development at all. There were some plans on the drawing boards, but nothing really reached fruition,” recalls Thomas Johnson, president of NAI Martens.

But consumer confidence gradually began to improve as job growth accelerated. “We’re just now getting back to the point where I think we’re close to break-even,” adds Johnson, referring to job gains during the recovery.

Development hot spots

Greenwich Road and K-96 in the northeast part of town and Maize Road and NewMarket Square in the northwest are two of Wichita’s more active development corridors.

The upscale Greenwich Place is a 106-acre development at K-96 and Greenwich Road that is home to the Wichita Sports Forum, Bed Bath & Beyond, Maurices, World Market, DSW, Ross Dress for Less, Ulta Beauty and others.

The $14 million Wichita Sports Forum, which opened in late 2015, houses a trampoline park, basketball and volleyball courts, sand volleyball courts and an indoor soccer field that converts to a baseball or softball practice area.

Johnson describes the popular sports forum at Greenwich Place as “a large anchor and a big draw.” Plans are in the works for the addition of an outdoor multi-sport athletic facility.

“There is probably a couple hundred thousand square feet of new retail that has popped up including DSW, which has been looking at this market a long time. DSW finally moved in here,” says Johnson of the shoe retailer.

In northwest Wichita, NewMarket Square is a super-regional shopping mall that stretches along Maize Road for three-quarters of a mile. Owned by the Slawson Cos., the mall has a gross leasable area of 840,000 square feet.

An addition to the shopping center — a mixed-use development known as NewMarket North — is underway at North Maize Road and West 29th Street. The addition will include offices and possibly apartments above retail and restaurant space. The first building, which spans 21,400 square feet, was recently completed and will include five to seven tenants. Orangetheory Fitness is among the property’s first occupants.

City of Derby on a roll

As the largest suburb of Wichita and home to about 23,000 residents, Derby is experiencing a significant amount of development activity. One might even say that this community southeast of Wichita is making history.

Construction on a dinosaur-themed park is expected to begin later this year. The attraction will feature the life-sized animatronic prehistoric creatures on a 14-acre site on the west side of Rock Road at the northeast end of Derby.

The brainchild of a New Jersey-based company that goes by the name Field Station: Dinosaurs, the outdoor park will primarily target children ages 3 to 11 and aims to draw visitors from the Wichita metro area, other cities in Kansas and other states. According to the City of Derby’s website, plans for the park include a ropes course under a dome, a paleontology-themed miniature golf course and a fossil dig site. Wichita Business Journal reports that the park will also feature an indoor 3D theater. The goal is to have the project completed by summer 2018.

The $39 million park is part of a 49-acre Sales Tax and Revenue (STAR) bond district that could eventually include a hotel, restaurants and retailers. (A STAR bond captures additional sales tax generated within a defined district to pay off the bonds.)

Meanwhile, CBC Real Estate Group is developing the $40 million Rock Regional Hospital in Derby. In January, the Derby Planning Commission approved the site plan for the 90,000-square-foot hospital, which will be operated by Texas-based Candor Healthcare. The initial plan called for a 65,000-square-foot hospital. The higher square footage was due to an increased number of service lines.

The 30-bed general acute care hospital will be located north of Patriot Avenue and west of Rock Road as part of the STAR bond district at the north end of Derby.

Rock Regional Hospital will be a full-service facility capable of handling about 90 percent of all healthcare cases. The hospital is expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Elsewhere in Derby, a 15,000-square-foot build-to-suit project is underway for Via Christi Clinic on the northwest corner of Tall Tree Road and Newberry Street. The new clinic will integrate primary care and physical therapy and will enable Via Christi Clinic to increase the number of its family medicine and pediatric providers from four to eight.

MedCraft Healthcare Real Estate, the developer-owner of the $5 million freestanding facility, broke ground on the project in February. Completion is slated for this September. Via Christi will occupy the structure under a long-term lease agreement.

— Matt Valley

This article first appeared in the May 2017 issue of Heartland Real Estate Business magazine.

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