Bank of America slashes space at namesake building, plans to close banking center

UPDATED — Bank of America Center’s namesake tenant is significantly reducing its size at the building at Douglas and Broadway.

“That’s just one of the many they’re downsizing,” says Chris Ruffin, director of real estate for his father’s Ruffin Properties.

“It’s kind of sad since they’ve been such a longtime tenant. They’re a great tenant.”

Bank of America building in downtown Wichita.  (Oct. 9, 2012.)The North Carolina-based bank has been cutting costs and eliminating thousands of jobs over the past few years.

Currently, Bank of America has 50,000 square feet at its downtown Wichita headquarters.

“They’re cutting down to about 12,000 square feet and giving … us back the second floor,” says Phil Ruffin, who owns the building. “That’s how far we’ve gotten so far.”

The bank’s lease expires Dec. 31.

“We have been reviewing all of our corporate real estate needs across the country over the last several years,” bank spokeswoman Diane Wagner said in an e-mail.

“We have identified some areas that will allow us to become more efficient and are working to reduce the space we have to fit the needs of our businesses. In Wichita, this means we are reducing our space in the 100 N. Broadway location . . . . We do plan to continue to have some offices in the building, but can’t share any further details at this time.”

Wagner does confirm, though, that Bank of America’s retail banking center will close.

“As it relates to our banking center, after careful consideration, we have chosen to close the banking center at 100 N. Broadway as we will consolidate and serve our banking center customers’ needs from our nearby Mid Towne Center facility at 411 S Topeka St.,” Wagner wrote. “This consolidation into our motor bank building will require significant investment in the facility and demonstrates our commitment in the downtown district for Wichita.”

“It’s beautiful space,” Phil Ruffin says. “There’s no space like it in Wichita, I can tell you that.”

Read More »

Phil Ruffin buys Florida oceanfront property sight unseen, but it’s no joke

UPDATED — There are a lot of jokes about waterfront property in Florida that someone would like to sell you sight unseen.

The oceanfront property that billionaire Phil Ruffin purchased in December – without even looking at it – is no joke on him, though.

“We went down there and looked at it at New Year’s, and it’s a beautiful piece of property,” Ruffin says. “It’s a luxury property.”

The price may be even more attractive. Ruffin paid $6 million for 500 feet of oceanfront property on almost 12 acres in Vero Beach for which the previous owners paid $17.5 million.

“It was a bargain,” Ruffin says. “Someone took an $11 million hit.”

There used to be a Radisson hotel on the property, but it was torn down after a storm.

“Once that happens, you have to start over again,” Ruffin says of rezoning for potential hotel use.

He’s going to go through the rezoning, but Ruffin says he isn’t sure what he’ll do after that.

He might build a new hotel.

“Or we might flip it.”

Ruffin, who owns Treasure Island in Las Vegas and the Wichita Marriott on Corporate Hills Drive, says he likes investing in land.

“I’d rather have land than money right now,” he says. “Money’s not worth a lot. It’s very hard to invest our money and make anything off it right now. The interest rates are so low that money markets are not good, and stock markets are a little bit jumpy, so land is a pretty good investment right now in hot areas.”

So, ah, what are those hot areas that perhaps the rest of us may invest in?

“Well, Florida’s real good, and Vegas is getting better, and Wichita’s not bad,” Ruffin says.

“I like my little hometown. I’m not sure they like me, but I like them.”

Todd Dechant creates OxCart to improve dump carts; Costco.com is first retail outlet

Todd Dechant unwrapping his new OxCart product.

WICHITA – Todd Dechant has spent a career as an employee and consultant helping companies and individuals bring new products to the market.

Now, he’s going to do it for himself with a new product called the OxCart, which he says is an improved dump cart for tractors and ATVs.

Dechant’s background is in sales and product development, among other things, at Coleman, Harper Trucks, Black & Decker and Pepsi.

During the last couple of years he’s been working on the OxCart, he’s also been helping other inventors launch their products.

“I got on an ‘I know a guy’ list,” Dechant says. “That was a lot of fun. I just don’t have time to do that anymore.”

When Dechant decided he wanted to create his own product, he did a category analysis to look for dead categories “that didn’t really have a lot of innovation in them.”

He says dead categories are ones that aren’t growing in sales.

“One that just kind of seemed glaring to me … was the dump cart category,” Dechant says.

“We tested a lot of products out there,” he says. “I started focusing on trying to get more out of a riding lawn mower.”

He says there’s not been much innovation in the field in the last couple of decades.

“The only way to grow a category is to come up with innovation.”

Dechant says he’s added durability and stability with the OxCart.

“You’ve got more control in the dumping process,” he says. “The pivot point is kind of like a teeter-toter in most dump carts.”

He says that means when loads shift they start sliding quickly.

“It’s very harsh and abrupt.”

For his cart, Dechant says he’s moved the pivot point back for more control.

He’s also added a power-assisted gas lift and wider, higher quality tires.

Dechant debuted the OxCart, which will sell for $300 to $349, today at the Green Industry and Equipment Expo in Kentucky.

Read More »

Phil Ruffin likes a good deal — if he’s the one getting it

WICHITA — It’s no wonder Phil Ruffin does business in Las Vegas instead of merely his hometown of Wichita.

Ruffin, who owns Treasure Island, recently added 40,000 square feet of retail space to the casino and hotel. CVS signed the first lease at the new space at $300 a square foot.

“Can you imagine that?” Ruffin says of the price. “Isn’t that crazy?”

Wichita prices are significantly less at more like $15 to $25 a square foot.

Ruffin says a lot of Wichitans are coming to his hotel, but he’s not giving them any special deals.

“Hell no.”

All federal agencies at the 271 Building downtown will by gone by September

WICHITA — By the end of August, all of the federal agencies in the 271 Building at 271 W. Third St. downtown will be gone.

Have You Heard? has written about several of the departures already. What follows is a complete list.

“This was originally an IRS lease at this building, but they returned some of the space, and then we backfilled it with other agencies … which is kind of why everyone is leaving at once,” says Angela Brees, a spokeswoman for the General Services Administration.

The IRS has about 33,000 square feet of the 95,000-square-foot building.

Typically, whenever a federal agency’s lease is up, there has to be a bidding process for new space.

The IRS office and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office are moving to 555 N. Woodlawn. They’re taking about 40,000 square feet there, and there’s another 23,000 square feet available to lease.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration office and the Health and Human Services Inspector General are moving to Phil Ruffin’s Bank of America Center at Broadway and Douglas.

The Small Business Administration is moving to the Page Court Building at the Garvey Center at 220 E. Douglas.

The Defense Contract Audit Agency and the Defense Contract Management Agency are moving to the Lux building at First and Market.

The Railroad Retirement Board has already moved to the Cambridge Office Park south of 21st and Webb Road, and the Citizenship and Immigration Services office has already moved to Ruffin’s building at 550 W. Douglas in Delano.

The status of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Defense Inspector General offices is still unclear.

All of the agencies need to be out of the 271 Building by the end of August when the lease is up.

“We’re still dealing with them on that,” says Trey Ayers, executive vice president of Guthrie, Okla.-based Dominion Properties, which owns the building.

Dominion is seeking new tenants outside of federal agencies.

“We like Wichita, and we like what it’s about,” Ayers says. “Hopefully we can help some other local folks move into the property.”

Wichita’s LSI office to move to Ruffin Building on East Douglas

UPDATED — When LSI’s Engenio storage division sold to NetApp in 2011, one piece of the LSI business remained at the NetApp building on North Rock Road.

LSI is now moving into its own space at the Ruffin Building at 9111 E. Douglas, which is the one-time Pizza Hut headquarters.

“We’re excited to have them,” says Chris Ruffin, director of real estate for his father Phil Ruffin’s Ruffin Properties.

The 5-year lease is for 19,000 square feet of the 254,000-square-foot building.

“I have about 25,000 left,” Ruffin says of what’s still available to lease.

Marty Gilchrist and Grant Tidemann of J.P. Weigand & Sons helped him with the deal.

“They were instrumental in helping put it together,” Ruffin says.

Also helping was California-based Ham Southworth of Studley Inc. Southworth represents LSI nationally.

He says about 50 people will be moving. Southworth says most are engineers but there are sales, operations and marketing employees as well.

“They’re going to move in as soon as possible,” Ruffin says. He anticipates that will take three or four months.

Other tenants include Ally, CCH and Pure-Formance Sports & Fitness Training Center, which Ruffin says is open to the public.

He says Ruffin Properties recently spent $115,000 on landscaping at the Ruffin Building.

“And it’s going to really improve … the overall appearance to the building.”

Ruffin says the LSI lease is significant.

“It’s just a really good deal,” Ruffin says.

And not just for Ruffin Properties and LSI, he says, but for Wichita in general.

“It means that the private sector’s moving a little bit.”

Ruffin working on two Delano properties

WICHITA — Chris Ruffin director of real estate for his father Phil Ruffin’s Ruffin Properties, is working on a couple of new deals in Delano.

One is for what will be the former Ruben’s Mexican Grill space, which he plans to renovate.

“It’s going to be really neat,” he says. “Everybody will really like it.”

The other is behind 550 W. Douglas where the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office is.

There had been an old warehouse behind the building.

“We’ve torn down that building,” Ruffin says.

He says he can build to suit, most likely for an office use.

“I think retail would be difficult there.”

Crossroads shopping center undergoes remodeling, prepares for large, new tenant

WICHITA — Passersby have noticed some work going on at Phil Ruffin’s Crossroads shopping center at Central and Ridge and wondered what’s happening.

“I’m just remodeling it,” says Jon Cyphert of Jon Cyphert Commercial Real Estate, who is the leasing agent for the center.

He says there was a time the center was always 100 percent leased.

“Things kind of started to shift away, and now I think they’re shifting back,” Cyphert says.

Though the center has been more active in recent years, he says, “I’ve got quite a bit of  space left to lease.”

Twenty-three thousand square feet, to be exact.

State Beauty Supply expanded its presence there in 2012. The Eric Fisher Academy is on the east end, and Gordmans is on the far west part of the property next to the shopping center.

Gordmans got a new roof in 2010, and the center is getting a new roof now.

Cyphert says he has a announcement of a new, large tenant coming within a month or so.

Possible new tenant at Sunburst Plaza

WICHITA — There’s some activity going on at Phil Ruffin’s Sunburst Plaza at 1725, which is at 1725 E. Douglas and is best known for being home to Tanya’s Soup Kitchen.

There’s about 2,500 square feet adjacent to the former Integrity Auto Group space that’s being readied for a new tenant.

A deal for that tenant is imminent. We’ll let you know when it closes.

Ruben’s Mexican Grill is moving by spring, most likely within Delano

WICHITA — Ruben’s Mexican Grill is moving – again – but probably not far.

Almost a decade ago, Ruben & Anita’s Tacos left the Farm & Art Market in Old Town for a new home in Delano. Ruben Acosta changed the restaurant’s name and opened near the northwest corner of Douglas and McLean.

Now, he’s negotiating to take space at the northwest corner of Douglas and Osage, which is just down Douglas in Delano.

“We’re still kind of like maybe a month out from really knowing,” says Omar Acosta, Ruben Acosta’s son.

Omar Acosta says “we’re kind of getting kicked out” due to the restaurant’s rent getting tripled. Ruben’s subleases space from Valero. Phil Ruffin owns the property.

“It’ll be a good change,” Acosta says. “I don’t think anybody really minds having to move. It’s just the process of having to do it.”

The restaurant’s lease is up in April.

Chris Ruffin, who handles real estate for his father’s properties, says the Douglas and McLean property is “up for redevelopment.”

“We’re looking into it,” he says.

Anything new is at least a year away. Ruffin says he’s considering options for what to do there.

“I haven’t made any plans.”