Tony Utter surprises fellow brokers as the Wichita Executive Centre’s new listing agent

Other brokers may question what he’s doing, but Tony Utter is confident in the future of the Wichita Executive Centre.

UPDATED — Some of Tony Utter’s fellow commercial brokers have had a recurring question for him since learning he’s taken over the listing for Real Development’s Wichita Executive Centre.

“Basically, was I out of my mind?”

Utter, who owns Utter Commercial Real Estate, acknowledges financial and other issues the Minnesota Guys and the building at 125 N. Market have faced in recent years.

“It’s been a topic of conversation quite a bit lately,” he says.

Calvin Klaassen, who works with Utter, will be helping him with the leasing.

“We did a lot of research before we agreed to it,” Utter says. “It was only after we were satisfied and reached … a high comfort level that we agreed to do this.”

Maintenance and other issues at the building aren’t all that had Utter concerned.

“We wanted to be very careful, very cautious before we agreed to take on a building of this size,” he says.

The 19-story, more than 300,000-square-foot building has about 80,000 vacant square feet of office space and about 100,000 vacant square feet of former hotel space. Utter says it’s the second-tallest office building in the state next to the neighboring Epic Center.

“This is the most complicated office building that I’ve ever been involved with,” Utter says. “It has a long history in Wichita.”

He’s had some history there already himself.

Utter was the leasing agent for the building for eight months before Real Development purchased it in 2007.

“So I’m back,” he says.

There are a few reasons Utter agreed to get involved.

No. 1, he is confident that his firm and any vendors will get paid.

“The good thing is that the lender is heavily involved,” Utter says of Security National Capital of Salt Lake City.

“We’re expecting a lot of assistance from other real estate brokers, and they want assurances that they’re going to be paid,” Utter says. “We depend heavily on working with other brokers. We consider them as part of our team.”

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Westar Energy posts shut-off notice at Real Development’s Farmers and Bankers Building downtown

WICHITA — Real Development’s problems with maintenance issues and unhappy tenants and vendors aren’t confined to the Wichita Executive Centre.

There are also headaches for the Minnesota Guys at the Farmers and Bankers Building at 200 E. First St. and the Landmark Building at 212 N. Market. The buildings are attached.

Westar Energy put up a delinquent notice at the Farmers and Bankers Building to shut off power on Oct. 7.

“There isn’t trouble,” says partner Michael Elzufon. “If there’s a notice, I guess it’s arguably about whether or not it’s premature.”

Partner Dave Lundberg says Real Development owes $10,000 on its energy bill and Westar also is demanding $10,000 for a utility deposit.

“We have never had a shut-off of a utility of any kind at any time in any building — period,” Elzufon says.

He wonders if this is a scare tactic on Westar’s part.

“I don’t know what you call this,” he says. “It’s rather interesting that these kinds of playing the laundry out in the middle of the world (happen). It’s a little frustrating . . . to say the least.”

In an e-mail, a Westar spokeswoman said she can’t discuss private account information.

“However, we are working with this customer to remedy the situation.”

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Blue Diamond Energy to move into former Real Development office at Broadway Plaza

WICHITA — Earlier this summer, Have You Heard? reported when the Minnesota Guys moved their Real Development office out of Broadway Plaza and into the Wichita Executive Centre.

Now, Blue Diamond Energy is moving into the almost 3,300-square-foot space the Minnesota Guys vacated on the first floor of Broadway Plaza, which is at the southwest corner of Douglas and Broadway.

“That gives us a little bit of a storefront, if you will,” says president Ryan Schweizer.

He and business partner Travis Forsberg, who previously was president of Sapphire Energy of Wichita, made the decision.

Blue Diamond is mainly a petroleum land services company that consults with businesses across the country, but its primary client base is here.

Specifically, they are a lot of the same people who will be heading to the Petroleum Club across the street and to the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association, which also is in Broadway Plaza.

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Wichita Independent Business Association may be close to leasing new office space

farm.jpgWICHITA — It appears the Wichita Independent Business Association may be close to making a deal with the Minnesota Guys for new downtown space.

WIBA has sold its North Waco building to lawyers Craig Shultz and Kurt Holmes of Spyglass Properties as a cost-saving measure.

Last week, WIBA president Tim Witsman sent an e-mail to some WIBA members acknowledging that last month they’d authorized him to sign a lease with Inter-Faith Ministries for space in its building at Market and Murdock.

He said that almost immediately he received another offer for the first floor of the Farmers and Bankers Building at 200 E. First St., which the Minnesota Guys own.

WIBA would take about 2,200 square feet of former bank space, which includes a 1930s-style boardroom.

The office includes free phone and Internet service.

In the e-mail, Witsman told members that the cost “is less than half of what other first rate facilities were leasing for.”

Witsman doesn’t want to discuss the potential deal.

“It is not settled.”

Minnesota Guys move their offices

WICHITA — The Minnesota Guys have a tenant announcement, and this time it’s themselves.

Real Development’s Wichita offices are on the main floor of the company’s Broadway Plaza at 105 S. Broadway.

The guys are now in the process of moving to their Wichita Executive Centre at 125 N. Market.

“This move will allow us to move our sales and leasing efforts with our operations and property management services,” says CEO Michael Elzufon.

Equally important, it now frees up prime space at Broadway Plaza.

“We don’t need the street-level exposure that many other companies would benefit from,” Elzufon says.

He says there’s a growing demand for that kind of space downtown.

Elzufon says with tens of millions in investments his company is making between Broadway and Market — which one of his colleagues “affectionately calls the block of blight” — it makes sense to cater to businesses wanting the exposure.

He’s not in a hurry on finishing the move, though. Elzufon says it’s not like someone is making them snap to it.

He’s a little more blase.

“When we move, we move.”

Frida’s Mexican Grill owner Mario Quiroz looks for new restaurant space

WICHITA — Frida’s Mexican Grill owner Mario Quiroz had planned to close his restaurant next week before moving to a new space, but he’s decided to wait at least a month.

“I’m just trying to find the right spot,” Quiroz says. “I didn’t want to stop operations in one place not having the other one ready.”

Frida’s currently is near the Thai Binh grocery store on West 21st Street, just east of Amidon.

Quiroz says the Minnesota Guys are talking to him about moving downtown.

“There’s lots of chances to relocate my business,” he says. “There’s some people who really like my concept.”

Part of the reason Quiroz wants to move is the large entertainment hall attached to the small restaurant is too big and doesn’t make enough money for him to continue operating.

Quiroz says he may have found someone to sublease that space.

When he moves, Quiroz plans to still have some sort of room for live music on a much smaller scale. He doesn’t want music to be the main focus, though.

“What I really like to do is more restaurant food.”

Downtown’s Commerce Plaza on the market

WICHITA — More than a year ago, it looked like the Minnesota Guys would buy downtown’s Commerce Plaza at 401 E. Douglas.

The deal fell through, though, and the Minnesota Guys are no longer interested.

“And to tell the truth, I’m not very interested in them,” says Courtney Ruthven, who owns the building with her husband, Leslie.

The Ruthvens weren’t sure what they wanted to do after the sale fell through.

“It doesn’t hurt us to keep it,” Courtney Ruthven says. “It’s a very nice income property.”

The building, which is listed for $2.375 million, has five stories and a basement over about 73,000 square feet. It has an almost 60 percent occupancy rate.

The building was built in 1932 for Montgomery Ward, which occupied it until the late 1960s.

“It’s a great building,” Ruthven says. “In those days, both men and materials were cheap, and so they built it well.”

She says another three stories could be added “without stressing it a bit.”