Towne West Medical Plaza coming to Towne West Square for nontraditional use

Michael Payton (from left), Jeff Englert and Grant Glasgow are trying to market a new Towne West Medical Plaza for a nontraditional approach to filling the mall.

WICHITA — Area mall manager Michael Payton is using a new saying to describe Simon Property Group malls such as Towne East Square and Towne West Square.

“The malls are starting to become the ‘alls.’”

He means the malls offer more than retail and restaurant options these days.

“We’re starting to see more and more nontraditional users work their way into the mall environment.”

The latest foray into a nontraditional use will be the new Towne West Medical Plaza, a potentially 50,000-square-foot area that could be home to a variety of medical users.

“Basically kind of a one-stop shop for different medical needs,” says Jeff Englert of Grubb & Ellis/Martens Commercial Group.

Englert and colleague Grant Glasgow are marketing the property, which will be on the west side of the mall between Sears and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

“This is something they’ve tried in other markets,” Glasgow says of Simon.

“You have a built-in customer base within Towne West mall.”

Glasgow says the mall has 6 million visitors annually.

Payton says the medical location will be convenient for patients, who also could be shoppers.

“They can do some shopping. They can eat.”

Glasgow says to see why this idea makes sense, look at the number of medical providers in the southwest Wichita area.

“It is by far the fewest in Wichita,” he says.

Englert says that area has only 1 percent of all medical offices in the city.

“Obviously, there’s a clear void,” he says. “That’s another reason why we thought this would be a good use of space.”

In addition to being convenient for patients, Glasgow says a medical plaza at the mall makes sense for doctors and dentists, too.

“This allows medical users to cluster,” he says. “They like to all be together.”

On-site management is another plus, he says.

“There are benefits like 24-7 security.”

The area likely will develop in phases.

“It will not cut off through the rest of the mall,” Englert says of access to shopping through that entrance.

Towne West’s occupancy rate is just over 90 percent.

“If this thing all comes together, we’ve got a handful of retailers that we’re going to have to relocate,” Payton says.

A few that are at the mall on a temporary basis may not get renewed, he says.

Towne East has a 94 percent occupancy rate.

That’s where Wright Career College is expanding from 26,000 square feet by adding an additional 7,000 square feet for a nursing education program.

“They have exceeded their expectation of enrollment well ahead of schedule,” Payton says.

“Those nontraditional users have seemed to work really well,” Englert says.

Payton says malls have been around since only 1955 and are “constantly in evolution.”

“The mall business is a relatively young industry,” he says. “Some of the traditional users that we have looked to have disappeared.”

He points to the former Steve & Barry’s where Wright Career College now is.

Payton says other retailers go back and forth between malls and strip centers.

“There’s movement each way with retailers,” he says. “This is a pendulum that goes back and forth.”

Englert and Glasgow are in talks with some potential medical users, but there are no deals yet. It’s not clear how quickly the Medical Plaza may develop or what types of medical or related users there will be.

“It depends on what the market demands are out there,” Englert says.

Payton is confident in the idea.

“Given the activity of the medical community in this market, it seems to make an awful lot of sense.”