Wichita retail market remains steady.

For Doug Malone, a retail brokerage and leasing associate with Wichita, Kansas-based J.P. Wiegand & Sons, “The good news about Wichita is that we have been a little pocket of prosperity for a number of years, and we didn’t get hit until just recently with the economic problems that the rest of the country had.”

While retail in larger markets struggles, the smaller Wichita market has remained steady. This is due partly to the conservative nature of real estate professionals in the market and partly due to the fact that overbuilding tends to happen less in secondary markets. But the recession is starting to be seen here.

“Wichita has a tendency to feel those impacts last and to come out them last as well, but we don’t have the real ups and downs of a lot of other markets” Malone says. “Although, what we’re seeing now, in terms of a slowdown in retail activity, we probably haven’t seen this kind of slowdown since post-9/11.”

This slowdown has many retailers taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to doing deals. Since most major new projects in the market are done by local developers — who know the market and can withstand its softening — Wichita has not seen as much speculative development as other cities,
lessening the amount of product needed to be absorbed.

But that also means that little new construction of any kind is occurring. Some projects are in the works, though. Last summer, Westway Shopping Center was sold to a California developer that plans to redevelop the property and fill its vacancies, most notably, a 72,000-square-foot space formerly occupied by a grocery store. A couple of local developers also recently acquired the former Builder’s Square, an approximately 100,000-square-foot property located at Kellogg Drive and Webb Road. The property will be redeveloped for either retail or industrial uses, a decision that will be determined by the ongoing expansion of U.S. Highway 54 (Kellogg Drive) and market demands.

On the east side of Wichita, the intersection of 21st Street and Greenwich Road is poised for even more growth. The area is already home to Regency Lakes, a mixed-use project that contains a large retail development. Across the street from this development is 100 acres of raw land ripe for greenfield development.

“That intersection has a lot of zoned property that is going to create a lot of retail development in that location in the coming years,” Malone says.
On the west side of town, the Maize Road corridor north of 21st Street will remain the primary development corridor in that submarket. NewMarket Square, an outdoor shopping center located nearby, also has another 20 acres north of the project to develop. All of this new development may have to wait until the economy improves, though.

“Retailers have to feel comfortable about selling to the consumer and making money, and they’re not going to open stores if they feel there is not enough consumer confidence and enough consumer buying power out there. So, I think it’s going to be flat for another year to 18 months,” Malone says.

— Coleman Wood

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