Retail center coming to 21st and Amidon

WICHITA — The intersection of 21st and Amidon continues to get a makeover.

The gas station at the southeast corner is being demolished to make room for a small retail development.

“We’re just going to do a little mini shopping center,” says Larry Cook of Cook Construction.

“We’ve got two really great tenants that are going to go in there,” he says.

Cook says he can’t say who the tenants are just yet.

“We’re real, real close,” he says of the deals.

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Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas to move to New Leaf Plaza

UPDATED — The Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas is turning over a New Leaf, so to speak, and moving to the shopping center of the same name at 21st and Amidon.

“It is very accessible and very visible for the public,” says Keith Lawing, president and CEO of the agency that connects workers with employers.

“I really think it’s going to be a perfect location for their new home, although some would have liked for it to stay downtown, I suppose,” says City Council member Jeff Longwell.

“They are at least for a little bit going to keep some of the administration stuff down in the Garvey building,” he says.

The Workforce Alliance had been at the former Commerce Bank building at First and Main downtown and had to scramble to find new space along with other tenants there when building issues, such as a broken elevator and suspended gas service, forced them to go elsewhere.

A site a few blocks down from First and Washington is where the Workforce Alliance temporarily is until the new space is ready.

Lawing says parking had become an issue where the Workforce Alliance was at First and Main.

“We definitely looked downtown,” he says seeking new space. “If we could have found a place that would have been adjacent to a parking garage … it would have been great.”

He says no such place could be found.

Longwell says that initially the Workforce Alliance will take about 26,000 square feet at New Leaf, which is on the southwest corner of the intersection and is home to a Walmart Neighborhood Market.

He says it “is going to be a really nice space.”

“It’s a good location, easily accessible, on a bus route,” Longwell says. “I really like that whole area. It’s kind of coming back a little bit.”

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Bruce Harris now sole owner of New Leaf Plaza; pawn store under construction again

UPDATED — Construction is once again under way at Bruce HarrisNew Leaf Plaza at the southwest corner of 21st and Amidon.

“The whole process has started over,” Harris says.

He and partner Larry Cook have gone separate ways, which halted construction since Cook also was the contractor.

“He was more of a sweat equity partner,” Harris says. “His view of (what) we were trying to accomplish was different than mine.”

Cook says he left on good terms with Harris.

“It wasn’t like a bad deal or anything,” Cook says. “Really, it was just a disagreement, and we decided to part ways. We agreed to disagree, you might say.”

Cook adds that he thinks highly of Harris.

“Maybe just leave it at that.”

Harris says Cook is a developer and looks at a project as “how cheap can you get it done and sell it to somebody else and walk away?”

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Despite sign to the contrary, T.J. Maxx isn’t coming to New Leaf Plaza

WICHITA — Shoppers in the 21st and Amidon area had brief hope that T.J. Maxx is coming to the intersection. A business in the area even had a sign saying so, but it’s not true.

“It speaks to a need or a demand at that intersection that’s probably not being fully fulfilled,” says Scott Harper, a broker with Landmark Commercial Real Estate.

“We have contacted them,” Harper says of T.J. Maxx. He was courting the store for New Leaf Plaza at the southwest corner where a Walmart Neighborhood Market is but says he “didn’t really get too far with it.”

Harper says that soft goods retailers such as T.J. Maxx like to cluster together.

“At the moment, that’s a little bit of a challenge for the intersection,” he says. Harper says it’s only one of a couple of intersections in the city with three grocers.

“I think soft goods are under served at the intersection,” he says. “A lot of them aren’t overly attracted to grocery-anchored centers.”

He says grocery stores are a draw for fitness centers.

“That’s why it’s good for Planet Fitness.”

The franchise opened in New Leaf Plaza last year, and Harper says it’s convenient for people to pop into the grocery store after their daily or weekly workout routine.

“Or, in my case, once-a year routine.”

Construction begins on one A-OK Center, second one to follow with more after that

WICHITA — Construction started this week at Bruce Harris’ new A-OK Center at New Leaf Plaza at 21st and Amidon, but that’s hardly the only new thing the pawn shop owner has going on.

“Wichita’s economy is starting to come back,” he says. “This shopping center in the middle of town is going to come alive again.”

The former Marina Lakes is now home to a Walmart Neighborhood Market that Harris says is contributing to those “sparks of life coming along.”

Harris also is about to begin building a new center at 410 N. West St.

It’ll be about 19,000 square feet, and the center at New Leaf will be 25,000 square feet.

“It’s going to be a huge place,” Harris says.

His centers at Harry and Oliver and Harry and Broadway are 18,000 square feet each.

The New Leaf center will be the “same thing on steroids.”

“What we’re doing is changing the way people shop,” Harris says. “We have new, used and lease to own.”

Both new centers and his store at Harry and Oliver will have a Better Living shop, which is Harris’ new lease-to-own concept.

New Leaf and West Street also each will have an A-OK Pawn Shop, One Day Jewelry and Repair, Cricket and A-OK Financial Services, which offers check cashing, payday loans, title loans and tax services.

Harris says the New Leaf center will be the most elaborate.

“I’m going to try to make it a lot of fun,” he says. “It’ll be kind of like Cabela’s.”

What he means is he plans a lot of displays and unusual touches that will “make it a really neat retail atmosphere that you’ve never seen in the pawn industry.”

There will be a dramatic 30-foot ceiling at the entrance of the center where Harris hopes to have something fun, such as a small plane or part of a helicopter hanging.

“We’re going to try to work with the Wichita motif.”

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Mattress Firm to open at New Leaf Plaza

WICHITA — Mattress Firm, which just opened a new store near Central and I-235, is opening another new store on the west side. This one will go in the former Hollywood Video space at New Leaf Plaza, the shopping center at 21st and Amidon that used to be known as Marina Lakes. This will make the chain’s seventh Wichita store.

“If you look at the map of Wichita, we’ve got most of the shopping areas covered,” says franchisee Emmanuel Giannas, who has two partners in the business.

Giannas says the time is right to go to that area.

“That was once a very much highly shopped area,” he says.

With the addition of the Walmart Neighborhood Market at New Leaf, Giannas expects it to be a popular area once again.

“It’s going to bring back a lot of shopping to the area.”

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Two Wichita Learning Connection centers to open to help former students get diplomas

WICHITA — The South Central Kansas Education Service Center is opening two new sites in Wichita.

“What we do is we try to provide … cost-effective ways to provide education services to school districts,” says executive director Brad Pepper.

The south-central branch, which is based in Clearwater, serves 28 school districts and is one of seven education service centers in Kansas.

The center provides services such as integrating technology in classrooms, helping further professional development and arranging for reduced-rate equipment.

“Basically, if there’s a need that a school district has, we’ll provide that service,” Pepper says.

“They’re school districts without students,” is how he describes the centers.

At least that’s generally the case.

The two new Wichita sites will be part of a network of Wichita Learning Connection centers around the state that offer degree completion programs.

Pepper says the center partners with local school districts to help former students age 18 and older receive their high school diplomas.

“It’s an actual high school diploma,” Pepper says. He says that can carry more weight in the career world than a GED.

“We’re kind of targeting the Hispanic population,” Pepper says.

He says there’s a higher drop-out rate in that community, though Wichita Learning Connection is open to anyone.

One site will be in 1,550 square feet in New Leaf Plaza, formerly the Marina Lakes shopping center, at 21st and Amidon.

The other will be in 2,200 square feet at Parklane Shopping Center at Lincoln and Oliver.

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A-OK Pawn Shop owner Bruce Harris to develop new center on West Street

WICHITA — A-OK Pawn Shop owner Bruce Harris bought and recently tore down a couple of houses near his store at 410 N. West St. with new plans for development there.

“I’m putting in a new shopping center there,” Harris says.

He’s moving his One Day Jewelry & Repair, Cricket store and a financial-services store from Maple and West to the pawn shop’s address. He’ll have additional space to do leases as well.

“I’m just now getting started on it, so I’m not sure what I’m going to do,” Harris says.

He says he knows what the result will be, though.

“We’re beautifying … Wichita, and we’ll have a nice new center to go with the new street.”

Look for more information on Harris’ plans there in the coming weeks.

He’s also still working on centers at Harry and Broadway and at New Leaf Plaza, which was formerly Marina Lakes, at 21st and Amidon.

Harris says financing three new centers at the same time is a challenge.

“I’m trying to work out how to get that done.”

A-OK Pawn Shops owner Bruce Harris to start Better Living lease-to-own business

WICHITA — A-OK Pawn Shops owner Bruce Harris is starting a new lease-to-own furniture business that he hopes will become a chain of stores.

“It’s a brand-new concept we’re coming up with,” he says of Better Living.

The first store will open in 35,000 square feet at the Marina Lakes Shopping Center at 21st and Amidon next to where Harris is opening a new pawn shop, jewelry store and phone store along with a tax services, payday loans and check cashing center.

“Other large chains of pawn shops around the country are starting to do this,” he says.

Harris says he wants to “give people a better choice” on furniture, appliances and TVs.

“We’re going to try to upscale that,” he says.

Harris says he’s starting the concept in response to customers’ requests.

“We’re giving them an additional option,” he says. “It’s very similar to the retail side of our pawn business.”

Most of the first Better Living will be in the former Hollywood Video space at Marina Lakes. An additional 10,000 square feet for storage will come from the strip center next door.

If the business is successful, Harris says he’ll add a Better Living to his pawn shop complex at Harry and Oliver next.

Eventually, he says he wants to expand the centers – including the Better Living stores – to Hutchinson and the Kansas City market.

“We’re becoming a developer rather than just a pawn shop.”

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