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.”

Saint Francis Community Services to take 30,000 square feet at the former Office This

WICHITA — Saint Francis Community Services, which is taking over child welfare services previously provided by Youthville, is going to occupy 31,000 square feet at the former Office This.

The organization currently operates in about 4,000 square feet on North Amidon.

“We have to significantly expand that space,” says John Hoskins, vice president of marketing for the Salina-based group.

Saint Francis will occupy space that technically was part of the Office This development at 4031 E. Harry but wasn’t in the main area that was rented for office and conference space.

Developer Max Cole has closed that space in anticipation of a new tenant that will take as much as 100,000 square feet, though the deal isn’t done. The Saint Francis deal is separate from that.

In 1996, Kansas privatized management of its child welfare system that handles foster care, adoption services, residential treatment facilities and family preservation services.

There are five groups that bid on contracts to handle those services every four years.

Saint Francis won work for the next four years in two regions, including the Wichita region which is comprised of Wichita and almost a dozen surrounding counties.

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You don’t say

“If I tell you a rooster can pull a freight train, hitch him up.”

Office This developer Max Cole, who says that was his father’s favorite saying, and he now regularly uses it to tell people they should believe him

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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Costco may be close to a Wichita deal

WICHITA — Wichita, you just may get your wish for a Costco — maybe even relatively soon — though how close the company is to a deal depends on who you talk to.

The Issaquah, Wash.-based chain, which sells bulk items similar to Sam’s Club stores, has been eyeing Wichita again.

“I came to the market to look at the market on a macro basis,” says co-founder and executive chairman Jeff Brotman. “I didn’t like anything I saw.”

Brotman says that “without disclosing our deepest, darkest secrets,” he can say that the locations he looked at didn’t fit with the way the market moves, meaning its natural trade areas.

“I have a mild interest,” Brotman says. “I’m interested in everything, right? . . . It’s just hard to focus on things that aren’t burning priorities.”

That’s not how others tell it. According to them, Costco is close enough to a deal that a 2013 opening isn’t out of the question.

Even Brotman says, “Let’s just assume it was true: I wouldn’t tell you about it. Even after we get a property under control, we don’t talk about it until after we have permits.”

In summer 2010, The Eagle conducted a poll of what businesses Wichitans would like to have in the city.

Costco narrowly lost the top choice to Cheesecake Factory.

“I was a little disappointed that we came in second,” Costco co-founder and then-CEO Jim Sinegal joked at the time. “I’ve got to be prepared to deal with these little disappointments in life.”

Costco has previously been close to at least one other deal here, and Sinegal said a finalized deal is simply a matter of the company giving Wichita some attention.

“Meaning . . . we get off our butts and go take a look,” he said. “At any point and time, we probably have 100 different sites we’re looking at.”

Sources say several sites have been under consideration over the last six months or so.

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Longtime owner of Harry’s Uptown Bar & Grill dies

WICHITA — One of Wichita’s most well-known – and possibly well-liked – restaurateurs is gone.

Gary Cocking, the longtime owner of Harry’s Uptown Bar & Grill near Douglas and Hillside, died Monday after a battle with cancer.

“The guy knew probably as many people in Wichita as anybody,” says Darrell Leason, a commercial real estate and investment broker.

He says Mr. Cocking’s way with people is what made him such a good businessman.

“He was excellent with people – never met a stranger … and had a great memory for people’s names and faces.”

Cocking grew up working in his family’s restaurants, such as Wilbur & Susie’s near the stockyards on 21st Street, and he opened his first place – the Embers – in the late ’60s.

He went on to own the College Inn and the Rodeo, among other places, and manage businesses such as Nirt & Girty’s and Carlos & Wong’s.

“He knew how to operate a bar and how to make it a good place to hang out,” says Jeff Breault, who owns R&J Discount Liquor, which is just down from Harry’s.

“He made that … ‘Cheers’ atmosphere.”

Businessman Max Cole, a close friend of Mr. Cocking’s from childhood, says he was someone you could see from across the room and know “you’d like to meet him and be around him.”

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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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Jimmy’s Egg near 21st and Amidon closes; location near Office This to open soon

WICHITA — It turns out the new Jimmy’s Egg that’s going in front of Max Cole’s Office This development at 4031 E. Harry will replace the one just west of 21st and Amidon.

That Jimmy’s Egg is now closed.

Owner Wink Hartman Sr. says his management team “is going to take action to correct businesses that are not performing.”

“The concept is that we’re growing and reallocating our assets to more profitable areas and stores,” he says.

Hartman didn’t want to wait for the new Walmart Neighborhood Market to open at Marina Lakes on the southwest corner of the intersection and hope that his business increased.

“You cannot continually develop and plan your future around a Walmart,” Hartman says. “Yes, they drive traffic, but we have a breakfast concept, and it doesn’t really tie into being around a Walmart.”

The Jimmy’s Egg by Office This will open within 45 days.

Hartman has one more planned by the end of the year.

He’s close to a lease on the west side of College Hill and could have the restaurant open by Thanksgiving.

Look for more news on it soon.

Wink Hartman Sr. closes his Knolla’s Pizza and plans a new Jimmy’s Egg

WICHITA — Wink Hartman Sr. has closed one restaurant and is opening another.

His Knolla’s Pizza on East 21st Street just east of 127th Street East closed earlier this week.

Hartman had an agreement with Knolla’s founder Pat Knolla to open the business three years ago.

“It didn’t meet projections,” Hartman says. “Due to the lousy economy and the way Congress can’t do their job, there’s no reason to keep fighting it.”

So what would have happened if the Republican had won his bid for Congress?

“I’d be standing on the biggest soapbox I could find,” Hartman says. “How can you afford to continually spend more?”

Hartman’s Jimmy’s Egg franchises are doing well, so he can afford to do plenty more. He already has six here and one in Houston.

His latest Jimmy’s will open in front of Max Cole’s Office This development at 4031 E. Harry within three months.

Hartman also is looking to further expand in Houston and Kansas.

“I’m trying to create jobs.”

Office Park Plaza to have grand opening

WICHITA — Almost a year ago, Have You Heard? first reported that the former Allegiant GMAC Real Estate building at 4601 E. Douglas, which some people remember better as former Associated advertising space, would become Office Park Plaza.

Contractors Christian Shomberg and Mark Eggel bought the red brick Colonial-style building near Douglas and Oliver to create a concept that Shomberg described as similar to Max Cole’s Office This on East Harry.

They’ll offer office suites and full-service office needs, such as reception, phones and shared conference rooms.

The two say there’s been extensive remodeling at the building, which sat empty since late 2008.

There will be an open house from 2 to 6 p.m. on May 25, with a ribbon cutting at 3 p.m.