Max Cole isn’t giving up the fight for a new library at his Office This development

WICHITA — Office This developer Max Cole isn’t giving up his dream of a progressive southeast library without a fight.

In September, Have You Heard? reported that Cole made an offer to the city to do a 60,000-square-foot library at the development in the former Wichita Mall at 4031 E. Harry. At the time, Cole said he would charge $5 a square foot and throw in an extra 20,000 square feet for storage.

This week, when Cole heard the Wichita City Council approved further study of a scaled-back central library at Second and McLean, he fired off a quick e-mail to director of libraries Cynthia Berner Harris.

“I thought the economic downturn would cause the Library Board to be more realistic about the Central Library plan,” Cole wrote. “But I was wrong!”

He called the plan a “proposed book museum with computers in the downtown area.”

“The plan is so out of touch, it’s embarrassing,” Cole wrote.

He copied the e-mail to several others, including District 3 City Council member James Clendenin.

“He doesn’t pull any punches – ever,” Clendenin says of Cole. “I was somewhat speechless at first.”

He says he’s not against Cole’s proposal.

“What is the library of the future going to look like? I think Max has a really good idea of what that could look like.”

Cole wrote that he’s proposing “a digital-age vocational library that is intended to close the achievement gap in Southeast Wichita, where it is most needed … .”

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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.

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