Max Cole to open Mindfire Children’s Academy day care

WICHITA — A year after adding a Starwood Hotels call center to his former Office This space at 4031 E. Harry, Max Cole is preparing to open a day care to help Starwood workers and other groups that are expanding there.

“We’ve got a lot of things going on,” Cole says.

All but 40,000 square feet of his 370,000 square feet of leasable space is occupied.

Starwood has more than 51,000 square feet and about 550 employees. Cole says Starwood will be adding more workers in the next two to three years for a total of about 900.

The center has workers almost around the clock, so Cole says the day care will operate 24 hours a day.

“Starwood needs it badly,” he says.

He says there are about 1,100 employees total among all the companies and organizations with space at his center.

Cole is calling the day care Mindfire Children’s Academy after his Mindfire Academy, which is a school to teach adults and children digital video, audio and the art of making video games.

The day care will open after plans are approved with the city, which Cole thinks should be within three or four months.

Though Cole is starting the day care, he says he’s in talks with a company to run it.

“We’re kind of designing it as a high-tech thing,” he says of helping children learn.

Initially, the day care will be in about 12,000 square feet and be able to hold almost 100 children.

“We think that’s our start,” Cole says.

He thinks it likely will grow, though, due to other growth at the complex.

That includes Saint Francis Community Services, which has a contract with the Department for Children and Families to provide reintegration, foster care and adoption services.

“Our foster care homes program has, like, tripled in size, and we’re expecting even a bit larger growth,” says Saint Francis’ CFO Brian Carlgren.

Saint Francis is adding 20 employees to its current 240. It now has 31,000 square feet and is expanding with an additional almost 12,000 square feet.

“This other area will give us more of a storefront, too,” Carlgren says.

Though Saint Francis doesn’t need all the additional square feet right now, he says it can be used for storage and then Saint Francis will have “the ability then to grow into it if we need to.”

“It’s been great,” Carlgren says of being at the center. “Max has been a great landlord to work with. He’s making lots of improvements to the building.”

Communications provider Ideatek also is looking to expand at the center.

The Buhler-based company provides phone and Internet service and data transport over fiber-optic cables.

Ivan Kuhn, vice president of sales and marketing, says the Wichita office is projected to grow substantially in the next year thanks to a new contract with a wireless provider to build a fiber-optic ring around Wichita.

“We may double or better in the next 12 months,” he says.

Ideatek has about 2,500 square feet and can expand into the suite next to that for another more than 2,500 square feet.

Cole says things have gone well since he converted from his Office This concept.

“Oh, god, we’ve done great.”

He says he still needs a name for the center, though.

“You know what I’m thinking about naming it? I’m thinking about naming it the Former Wichita Mall,” Cole says of the space, which once was the Wichita Mall.

“Whatever I name the (thing), everybody’s going to call it the former Wichita Mall.”

U.S. Postal Service signs lease that should enable DCF to move more quickly

WICHITA — It was around this time last year that the state was considering leasing Wichita broker Jeff Greenberg’s 100,000-square-foot building near East 47th Street South and South Oliver.

The Department for Children and Families, which wants to leave the Finney State Office Building downtown where it currently is, seriously looked at Greenberg’s space. The deal didn’t happen, though.

Now, another deal related to that has been signed.

No one is commenting yet, but sources say the U.S. Postal Service has signed a deal for a good percentage of Greenberg’s building.

The postal serivce has a remote encoding center at 2601 S. Oliver, which is where DCF now wants to locate.

As Have You Heard? reported last month, the postal service is winding down those operations – its lease expires in September 2015 – but now it’s planning a call center for the space.

The call center, which will be one of four the postal service has nationally, will answer customers’ inquiries via phone and e-mail.

The remote encoding center has been at the South Oliver space for two decades. At one time there were more than 1,000 employees there. Now, there are 251 career employees left, meaning employees who are guaranteed jobs.

It looks like the call center is what the postal service has planned for Greenberg’s space. It also appears that the postal service could move within the next few months, which would enable DCF to finalize the lease it wants and move in more quickly.

Look for more information on the deal in the coming weeks.

U.S. Postal Service to open call center in space the state is negotiating for

UPDATED — There’s another twist on the possible Department for Children and Families lease at 2601 S. Oliver, which has been a remote encoding center for the U.S. Postal Service.

The postal service is winding down those operations – its lease expires in September 2015 – but now it’s planning a call center for the space.

“The U.S. Postal Service has completed its posting process and is now training the first group of hires for the new Customer Care Center that will go on line in Wichita, KS in July 2014,” postal spokesman Brian Sperry said in an e-mail statement.

The postal service is still in this building at 2601 S. Oliver, and the state is still negotiating to move in, but it’s unclear what will happen with the space.

The postal service is still in this building at 2601 S. Oliver, and the state is still negotiating to move in, but it’s unclear what will happen with the space.

The center, which will be one of four the postal service has nationally, will answer customers’ inquiries via phone and e-mail.

The remote encoding center has been at the space for two decades. At one time there were more than 1,000 employees there. Now, there are 251 career employees left, meaning employees who are guaranteed jobs.

“Through a memorandum of understanding with union representatives, 251 jobs were posted through a senior bidding process with all Remote Encoding Center employees eligible to submit for the available positions and no external recruitment was conducted,” Sperry wrote. “The newest Customer Care Center will operate out of the former Remote Encoding Center site.”

Sperry wouldn’t say if the postal service is trying to renegotiate for a longer lease or if it’s looking for a possible new site for the call center.

“The statement is all we have to report.”

Jan Manlove, the secretary and treasurer of the American Postal Workers Union Area Local 735, says the union’s “business agent had been working long and hard to get a call center.”

She says on the same day the postal service signed the call center agreement, it measured space at Hutchinson and Ponca City post offices to see if the call center could locate at either one.

“Our union, No. 1, wants to keep the jobs here in Wichita,” Manlove says.

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Building committee meeting canceled, but not before DCF lease details get distributed

UPDATED — A meeting of the Joint Committee on State Building Construction was canceled at the last minute Tuesday, but not before a sheet detailing a Department for Children and Families move was distributed.

“This is appalling,” Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita and a committee member, says of the lease numbers he saw on the sheet.

Nine state agencies, including more than 700 employees, are leaving the city-owned Finney State Office Building. More than 550 of those employees are with the DCF.

In February, Have You Heard? reported that the DCF was close to signing a deal for space that the U.S. Postal Service is vacating at 2601 S. Oliver. A story last week detailed how the possible lease wasn’t as close to being finalized as some had thought.

“It’s our intention to move into the postal service building,” DCF spokeswoman Theresa Freed says. “The plan’s not finalized, so as I mentioned before, we can’t discuss the details of the pending contract.”

She does say, though, that the DCF is negotiating to remain in the Finney building an extra nine months after its lease expires at the end of September.

“We’ve been very appreciative of the cooperation between our staff and the city of Wichita to make that happen,” Freed says.

Ward is not appreciative of any part of the deal.

“They totally ignored the people of Wichita,” he says of the “number of voices from Wichita that said this move doesn’t make any sense.”

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Possible DCF lease on South Oliver may not be ‘at the goal line’

The U.S. Postal Service is vacating this building at 2601 S. Oliver, but whether the state Department for Children and Families moves in isn't as certain as it once was.

The U.S. Postal Service is vacating this building at 2601 S. Oliver, but whether the state Department for Children and Families moves in isn’t as certain as it once was.

UPDATED — In February, a state official told Have You Heard? that the Department for Children and Families was “at the goal line” for signing a deal for space that the U.S. Postal Service is vacating at 2601 S. Oliver.

Apparently, though, someone has moved the goal line. The players in the lineup may have changed, too.

“We’re still exploring all of our options and haven’t made a final determination on that yet,” says Theresa Freed, a DCF spokeswoman. “That is one of the options that we’re considering.”

That sounds a lot less certain than when Mark McGivern, director of the Office of Facilities and Procurement Management within the state Department of Administration, used the goal line analogy.

Does that mean the postal deal is less likely than it had been?

“I wouldn’t say that it is any more or less likely,” Freed says. “As a department, we don’t discuss contracts until they are finalized.”

In June, Have You Heard? reported that nine state agencies, including more than 700 employees, will leave the Finney building when the state’s lease expires on Sept. 30. More than 550 of those employees are with DCF.

The city presented the state with what a state spokesman called “a very aggressive lease renewal offer” last summer, but the spokesman said DCF has needs the Finney building can’t fulfill.

State Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, has voiced concerns from the beginning regarding DCF and other agencies vacating the Finney building. He wonders what the holdup is now.

“That’s another concern in an ongoing series of concerns about how … good of a decision the move is in total,” he says.

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Two state agencies sign at Garvey Center

UPDATED — The state has completed two more leases for agencies that will be leaving the Finney State Office Building.

The Kansas Department of Health & Environment and the Kansas Human Rights Commission will be moving to the Garvey Center.

“We were just really impressed with the spaces we visited,” says Todd Fertig, a spokesman for the Department of Administration. “They fit a lot better with what these specific agencies needed.”

In June, Have You Heard? reported that nine state agencies, including more than 700 employees, will leave the Finney building when the state’s lease expires on Sept. 30.

KDHE will take the entire seventh floor of the R.H. Garvey Building at 300 W. Douglas. That’s 10,566 square feet.

The Human Rights Commission is taking 1,800 square feet on the second floor.

Fertig says the commission is a smaller agency with a limited budget.

“The Garvey Center was able to really work with them to … kind of retrofit the space so it was really what they needed at a very affordable rate.”

Larry Weber, who handled the deal for Builders Inc., says he’s “excited to have them here and remaining in downtown.”

Both spaces are areas that Harrington Health has been in or been using for storage, Weber says.

All but a couple of the agencies that either are in or have been in the Finney building have made or are close to making deals for new space.

The largest of those agencies and the one to spur the move, the Department for Children and Families, is close to finalizing a deal at 2601 S. Oliver where the U.S. Postal Service has had a remote encoding center.

State close to deal for Department for Children and Families space on South Oliver

The possible future home of the Department for Children and Families.

The possible future home of the Department for Children and Families.

WICHITA — The state is close to a deal on new office space for the Department for Children and Families, the largest of the state agencies at the city-owned Finney State Office Building at 230 E. William.

DCF is considering the 96,000 square feet that the U.S. Postal Service is vacating at 2601 S. Oliver.

“It’s at the goal line is how I would describe it,” says Mark McGivern, director of the Office of Facilities and Procurement Management within the state Department of Administration. “We’re still working things out.”

In June, Have You Heard? reported that nine state agencies, including more than 700 employees, will leave the Finney building when the state’s lease expires on Sept. 30. More than 550 of those employees are with DCF.

The city presented the state with what a state spokesman called “a very aggressive lease renewal offer” last summer, but the spokesman said DCF has needs the Finney building can’t fulfill.

“You kind of had a little bit of what I call a crowd-control issue,” McGivern says.

He says he wants to put “them in the building that they say they can be most effective in.”

“The agencies are my customers, and I try to put them in places that they say work best for them at the best possible prices for the state,” McGivern says. “We did this (with) the idea of helping the agency better serve their customers.”

The South Oliver building is on a bus line, and it’s a one-story building, which McGivern says is ideal.

“It’s much more I’ll say ready to go,” he says. “It’s much more conducive to what they say they need the way they have their programs designed.”

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Kansas Corporation Commission signs lease at former Ryan building

072413ryanUPDATED — There’s another new lease at the former Ryan International Airlines building at 266 N. Main St., and it happens to be another state agency.

“We’re slowly filling it up with state leases,” says Craig Simon of Landmark Commercial Real Estate, who handled the lease.

“The most recent one that got signed and approved was the Kansas Corporation Commission,” Simon says.

The commission is taking 17,267 square feet on the second floor.

Currently, the commission is in the Finney State Office Building at 230 E. William.

In June, Have You Heard? reported that nine state agencies, including more than 700 employees, will leave the city-owned building when the state’s lease expires on Sept. 30, 2014.

The Kansas Department of Labor, which is temporarily in the Finney building, signed a lease for the former Ryan building in September.

The state Board of Indigents’ Defense Services, which has been at 150 N. Main, signed a lease in the former Ryan building in October.

“There’s one more,” Simon says of state agency leases, “and we’re waiting to get the lease signed.”

That likely will be in the next week or two, he says.

“And then the entire building will be full once that’s complete.”

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Three state agencies close to signing new downtown leases despite city’s objections

The former Ryan International Airlines building.

UPDATED — Three state agencies, including two that currently are in the Finney State Office Building, are close to finalizing leases for the former Ryan International Airlines building at 266 N. Main.

The Joint Committee on State Building Construction will consider leases for the Kansas Corporation Commission and the Kansas Human Rights Commission next month and the state Board of Indigents’ Defense Services on Wednesday.

“To my great surprise and chagrin, this committee has no authority to stop this process other than the bully pulpit,” says state Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, a new member of the committee. “We can raise questions about the appropriateness of the move … and hopefully shame them into doing the right thing.”

Ward says the reasons the state has offered for why nine agencies need to leave the Finney building, a city-owned property at 230 E. William, “don’t seem to hold water compared to the bid given by the city.”

He’s referring to a new lease rate the city is offering to the state to keep the Department for Children and Families at the Finney building. DCF has more than 550 of the 700 state employees at the building.

According to a Sept. 9 letter Mayor Carl Brewer sent to Gov. Sam Brownback, the city would slash DCF’s lease rate from $11 a square foot to $6 a square foot for half the space it currently has. The reduced space is at DCF’s request, according to the letter. The city also offered to make a $6 million investment in improvements in the building.

“It is my hope, as mayor of Wichita, that the valuable relationship between the City and State can be preserved by a responsible business decision allowing the continued use of the Finney State Office Building as a centralized location for state agencies,” Brewer wrote.

Chuck Knapp, spokesman for the state Department of Administration, says it’s a “foregone conclusion” that DCF and the Kansas Corporation Commission will be leaving, because the Finney building does not meet their needs.

“Someone could offer you a cardboard box for free, and if it didn’t meet your housing needs, you … wouldn’t accept it,” Knapp says. “I’m certainly not saying the Finney building is a cardboard box. … Price isn’t necessarily the determining factor in the deal.”

In his letter, Brewer referenced a July meeting he had with Brownback after which a new conversation started with DCF about how the city could meet the department’s needs.

“However, despite our best efforts, we encountered obstacles that prevented a full evaluation of our counterproposal,” he wrote.

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Kansas Department of Labor to move to former Ryan International Airlines building

WICHITA — The Kansas Department of Labor, which is temporarily located at the Finney State Office Building, has signed a lease at the former Ryan International Airlines building at 266 N. Main St.

“They looked at several buildings,” says Chuck Knapp, Department of Administration spokesman. “Labor decided that that building best met their needs.”

The 10-year lease, which has two renewal options of five years each, is for 9,113 square feet.

Level 3 Communications and Hubris Communications are already at the building. Level 3 is downsizing its space, and that’s what the Department of Labor is taking.

Knapp says the department had been in another downtown building but was having some issues, so it made a quick move to the Finney building.

Craig Simon of Landmark Commercial Real Estate handled the deal for the Main Street lease, which begins Nov. 1.

Simon also recently handled the sale of that building when Tom Schmeidler of SBA Construction, his brothers and another investor purchased the property out of foreclosure.

More news is coming about the building soon.

There’s also news coming about another departure from the Finney building.

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