Developer Max Cole offers city a library deal at his Office This development on East Harry

WICHITA — Office This developer Max Cole was reading a Wichita Eagle story about the city’s proposed almost-$50 million library, and it got him thinking.

“I started on YouTube looking around the world at libraries and seeing what the difference is between the time I used to go to them and today, and I got really excited about it,” he says.

So he wrote District 3 City Council member James Clendenin with a new library offer for his Office This development in the former Wichita Mall at 4031 E. Harry.

“I’m proposing to do a 60,000-square-foot super deal,” Cole says.

“I’m offering them the world. It’s a paradigm shift, believe me. I know I shocked them with the offer, but it’s the right thing to do.

“I want that southeast part of town to succeed. I invested 10 years and a lot of money.”

He got the attention of Clendenin and others.

“Tell you what, I’m very intrigued by Max’s presentation,” says Clendenin, who has visited the property several times, including with library board members.

“I think everybody sees the extreme potential that the Office This space gives District 3,” he says. “That location is smack dab between two of the most underserved neighborhoods in Wichita.”

He’s referring to Planeview and Hilltop, but Clendenin says Office This is ideally situated for most of the district.

Director of libraries Cynthia Berner-Harris says the library board has invited Cole to make a formal presentation at its Oct. 18 meeting.

Cole’s offer was discussed at the board’s meeting Tuesday.

“They also were very intrigued by the possibilities, but they do have concerns that 60,000 square feet is beyond our capacity at this time,” Berner-Harris says.

She says southeast Wichita is an area scheduled to be addressed with the library’s master plan. The plan calls for a neighborhood facility of 7,500 square feet.

“We need to work also within the realities of what our budget will allow,” Clendenin says.

He says he’s not looking at potential Office This space as a replacement for a possible new downtown library.

Cole says the point of his offer is that it’s “at a fraction of the cost (to) taxpayers. That’s what it’s all about.”

He estimates the city could remodel the 60,000 square feet for about $3.6 million, and he’d charge about $5 a square foot. Cole says he’d also give the library 20,000 square feet for storage and pave a new parking lot.

Also, he says, there are unlimited opportunities to share space and technology with existing businesses at Office This.

For instance, he says his MindFire Academy could team with the library to offer digital filmmaking and animation classes.

“I’m handing them everything they need on (a) platter,” Cole says. “We could make this thing huge.”

Clendenin agrees.

“There really are endless possibilities.”