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.

Read More »

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 … .”

Read More »

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.

Read More »

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.”

Read More »

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.

Read More »

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.

You don’t say

max“I wish I’d have been that smart, but I wasn’t.”

— Developer Max Cole on a hilarious Christmas card sent (he hasn’t found out by whom) to friends and associates in his and his wife Dody’s names featuring the police mug shot of the late James Brown