Retailers find big opportunities in Wichita

The new Whole Foods at The Waterfront development in Wichita.

The new Whole Foods at The Waterfront development in Wichita.

by Dan Rafter

Retail has become the hot commercial segment in Wichita. And that’s good news for Brad Saville, president of Wichita-based Landmark Commercial Real Estate. His company specializes in retail transactions, and the moves by retailers both big and small are keeping him and his brokers busy.

Saville says that about 12 to 18 months ago, commercial construction came back in Wichita in a big way. Today, pocket, in-fill development means that the construction cranes are back again in this city.

And retail and restaurant developments are leading the way, Saville says.

“For several years the groups behind all these retail and restaurant concepts had been tightening the screws. They weren’t expanding because of the economy,” Saville said. “Now several of these big retail names are starting to expand again. They are looking at second-tier cities such as Wichita, cities that are this size. So we are getting a lot of looks from big-name retailers today.”

The first wave of new construction here focused, not surprisingly, on multi-family development. Today, though, construction crews are more often than not tackling retail projects. Saville said these developments are centering on two main business corridors in Wichita, the Greenwich Road and Maize Road areas.

“Those business areas have really good demographics as far as income goes,” Saville said. “I think people are sometimes surprised to see all the activity in those two areas.”

Big projects

Some of the bigger projects to hit these, and other, areas of the city include:

The Hobby Lobby store that was once on the east side of the city has now moved to K-96 and Greenwich Road. Hobby Lobby in the fall of 2013 opened a build-to-suit 55,000-square-foot store here at the Regency Lakes shopping center. This is important because it closed out the big box and junior box portions of this retail development, a part of the center that got its first big jumpstart back when Cabela’s opened a store here.

In July of this year the third Sam’s Club opened in Wichita. This 132,000-square-foot store is located at the northeast corner of 29th Street and Maize Road in the northwest portion of the city.

Costco announced that it will open its first store in the city. The company is breaking ground later this fall at the northeast corner of Kellogg Avenue and Webb Road.

The first Whole Foods opened in Wichita in The Waterfront retail center on Sept. 3 at the northwest corner of 13th Street and Webb Road. The adjacent retail and restaurant space is now in the construction and pre-leasing stage. This project is anchored by 600,000 square feet of Class-A office space and several higher-end restaurants, including Abuelo’s and P.F. Chang’s.

Saville points to the Waterfront development as one of the more exciting ones in the Wichita market.

“What makes it unique is that it is developed around a lake,” Saville said. “It is the only retail/restaurant project in Wichita that can say it’s on a lake. All of the restaurants and retailers back up to the water. It really is a beautiful, high-end project. The lake, though, is what sets it apart. When they say ‘waterfront’ they really mean it.”

Saville says that Wichita offers plenty of opportunities for retailers.

“Investors are attracted to net-leased investments in Wichita because the cap rates are higher than other markets on the coasts,” Saville said. “The Wichita economy remains stable, with less peaks and valleys. Right now we have very little supply of net-leased investments available.”

Saville predicts good things for the future of this city, especially when it comes to the retail and restaurant end of the commercial market.

Residents here, after all, can’t catch a Kansas City Royals or Kansas City Chiefs game in person. But they do have other ways to entertain themselves.

“We might not have major entertainment here, but people in Wichita do love to eat and shop,” Saville said. “That’s what they do for fun. If there is a concept that is new to the market, people will embrace it and support it.”

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