New Towne West CUP almost finalized; Towne East won’t pursue one ‘at this time’

WICHITA — It looks like Simon Property Group’s application for an amendment to the community unit plan for Towne West Square is all but finalized, and nothing is happening with the one for Towne East Square.

Simon’s applications were to hold outdoor events at both malls – that could be events such as special sales or carnivals – but neighbors near Towne East fought it.

Greenhouse sales are now scheduled at both malls for April and May, and a carnival is scheduled to start at Towne West on May 8.

Previous mall management said the amendment was approved at Towne West, but that’s not the case.

“From what we understand, we just needed to submit updated drawings, and we were good to go at Towne West,” says Mis Gaston, the mall’s new general manger. “They haven’t told us anything otherwise. So hopefully that gets us over the hump.”

Since the applications were filed, management has changed at both malls.

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Neighbors oppose Simon Property Group’s request for CUP amendment to allow outdoor events at malls

WICHITA – Simon Property Group has applied for an amendment to the community unit plans for Towne East Square and Towne West Square so it can hold outdoor events at both malls, but neighbors near Towne East are fighting it.

“They want to do a bunch of things in an outdoor forum, which we think means more traffic and more trash and more noise,” says Larry Duntz, president of the Rockwood Homes Association.

“We already have a significant problem with trash … blowing over on our property that they’ve been unwilling to do anything about.”

Area mall manager Michael Payton says what’s blowing is the issue blowing out of proportion.

“This isn’t really a big deal, really,” he says. “We’re going to have a meeting with them to address this.”

Payton won’t address what events the malls would have.

“We’re not necessarily filling in the blanks on that right now,” he says.

“They’re not being very forthright with telling us what exactly they want to do,” Duntz says. “Our entire board has agreed that what they’re talking about is not a good thing.”

Vice Mayor Pete Meitzner says most other retail developments already have approval for holding outdoor events, so he thinks it makes sense for Simon, too.

“They do a lot of good things … for the community,” he says. “It would level the field, so to speak.”

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Towne West Medical Plaza coming to Towne West Square for nontraditional use

Michael Payton (from left), Jeff Englert and Grant Glasgow are trying to market a new Towne West Medical Plaza for a nontraditional approach to filling the mall.

WICHITA — Area mall manager Michael Payton is using a new saying to describe Simon Property Group malls such as Towne East Square and Towne West Square.

“The malls are starting to become the ‘alls.’”

He means the malls offer more than retail and restaurant options these days.

“We’re starting to see more and more nontraditional users work their way into the mall environment.”

The latest foray into a nontraditional use will be the new Towne West Medical Plaza, a potentially 50,000-square-foot area that could be home to a variety of medical users.

“Basically kind of a one-stop shop for different medical needs,” says Jeff Englert of Grubb & Ellis/Martens Commercial Group.

Englert and colleague Grant Glasgow are marketing the property, which will be on the west side of the mall between Sears and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

“This is something they’ve tried in other markets,” Glasgow says of Simon.

“You have a built-in customer base within Towne West mall.”

Glasgow says the mall has 6 million visitors annually.

Payton says the medical location will be convenient for patients, who also could be shoppers.

“They can do some shopping. They can eat.”

Glasgow says to see why this idea makes sense, look at the number of medical providers in the southwest Wichita area.

“It is by far the fewest in Wichita,” he says.

Englert says that area has only 1 percent of all medical offices in the city.

“Obviously, there’s a clear void,” he says. “That’s another reason why we thought this would be a good use of space.”

In addition to being convenient for patients, Glasgow says a medical plaza at the mall makes sense for doctors and dentists, too.

“This allows medical users to cluster,” he says. “They like to all be together.”

On-site management is another plus, he says.

“There are benefits like 24-7 security.”

The area likely will develop in phases.

“It will not cut off through the rest of the mall,” Englert says of access to shopping through that entrance.

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Simon Property Group hires local firm to market space

WICHITA — It’s not exactly news when new space is available at a mall, but Jeff Englert makes a good case for 8,000 square feet that he and Grubb & Ellis/Martens Commercial Group colleagues are marketing at Towne East Square.

“To my knowledge, it’s the first time that Simon used third-party brokers in Wichita,” he says of Simon Property Group, which owns the mall.

Perhaps more significantly, Englert says, “They want to go after nontraditional mall tenants for this.”

Not that he and fellow brokers Nathan Farha and Grant Glasgow won’t look at retail.

“Retail is definitely going to be our first play there.”

However, Simon has had some luck with nonretail tenants, such as Wright Career College.

“They want to explore that some more,” Englert says.

The space is located on the west side of Towne East between Dillard’s and Sears at the second-most busy main entrance of the mall. Englert says it’s possible to add a glass exterior so the space is visible from outside the mall.

After retail, Englert says there could be possibilities such as office users, educational facilities or a fitness center.

He says he’ll soon have news on a new Towne West Square tenant.

“This will be pretty big news, let’s put it that way.”

Look for it in about a month or so.

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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Bungee Jump to open at Towne West Square

WICHITA — If tattoos aren’t your thing, maybe you could try bungee jumping instead.

Bungee Jump will open at Towne West Square on Oct. 22.

Alper Mutluturk is opening the business. He has eight others nationally at properties owned by Simon Property Group, which owns Towne West.

Mutluturk doesn’t offer traditional bungee jumping.

Instead, his business has a trampoline people can jump on — sometimes 20 feet in the air — while strapped in harnesses.

Mutluturk will charge about $7 for the experience, though he hasn’t settled on a price.

“It does attract a lot of people,” he says.

Big Easy Cajun to open at Towne East Square

WICHITA — Towne East Square is going to let the good times roll this fall with the addition of Big Easy Cajun, a restaurant that will serve New Orleans-style cuisine.

The restaurant, which is at a lot of malls owned by Simon Property Group, will be in the food court.

Great American Cookie closes at Towne West

cookie

On the heels of Simon Property Group’s lawsuit to evict Great American Cookie from Towne East Square and collect back rent from the business, the Great American Cookie at Towne West Square has closed.

No one with Great American Cookie returned a call for comment, and Simon, which owns the malls, declined to comment.

According to Simon’s April 7 lawsuit, Great American Cookie owes $13,450.56 in past due rent as of February.

The Towne East store, which has a monthly rent of $6,725.28, is still open.