Al’s Old & New Book Store to be first tenant at Block One retail center

booksWICHITA — The new retail center attached to the parking garage at Block One has its first tenant, and it may be an unexpected one.

Anita Siemer is going to move her Al’s Old & New Book Store from Delano, where it’s been for almost six decades, to the new downtown development.

Slawson Cos. is handling leasing at the 8,400-square-foot center. Slawson broker Jerry Jones says if he could create a list of what he wants at the center, he’d “put a book store right at the top of it.”

“We just feel really good about it,” he says.

So does Siemer, even though she never wanted to move.

The New Covenant United Methodist Church purchased Siemer’s space along with another space next door – at 1710 and 1712 W. Douglas – in order to expand. In April, Siemer expressed concerns about having to move due to cost.

“I can find cheap, crummy spaces in … parts of town that would be scary for after dark, and I can find expensive, nice places here in Delano and downtown, but you know, having to pay so much – like three times as much as I currently pay – I don’t think that’s really looking like it works for me right now,” she said at the time.

Now, she says Slawson Cos. has “gotten creative to make it so I could come into the space really in better shape than anything I found in Delano.”

Jones says Slawson Cos. got a master lease from the city at a good price to then lease to others.

“Really, we’re in a position where we got a favorable lease rate in the early years so we’re basically passing that … along to her to help her get up and going,” he says.

Block One is anchored by the Ambassador Hotel and the Kansas Leadership Center along Douglas and a couple of properties Slawson Cos. is redeveloping to the south.

That includes plans to convert the former Henry’s department store behind the Ambassador into a 40,000-square-foot mixed-use center. Jones says the building is able to support a few more stories if there proves to be a residential need. To the east is where the parking garage is.

Al’s new address, where it should be by late summer or early fall, will be 360 E. William.

Siemer says at her new address, there’s diagonal parking in front of her door and more across the street not to mention “I have a whole parking garage above me.”

“In some ways it’s better than being on Douglas,” she says.

Siemer says she likes that the space she’ll be in will be newly finished.

“So that all my electrical works – all those important things in life that you don’t get in an old building sometimes.”

Initially, Siemer says she’ll keep the same hours – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

“We are definitely considering expanding our hours.”

Siemer says she’ll have to be in her new space before she can make any decisions.

“Now,” she says, “we’ve got 50,000 books to move.”