Max Cole to open Mindfire Children’s Academy day care

WICHITA — A year after adding a Starwood Hotels call center to his former Office This space at 4031 E. Harry, Max Cole is preparing to open a day care to help Starwood workers and other groups that are expanding there.

“We’ve got a lot of things going on,” Cole says.

All but 40,000 square feet of his 370,000 square feet of leasable space is occupied.

Starwood has more than 51,000 square feet and about 550 employees. Cole says Starwood will be adding more workers in the next two to three years for a total of about 900.

The center has workers almost around the clock, so Cole says the day care will operate 24 hours a day.

“Starwood needs it badly,” he says.

He says there are about 1,100 employees total among all the companies and organizations with space at his center.

Cole is calling the day care Mindfire Children’s Academy after his Mindfire Academy, which is a school to teach adults and children digital video, audio and the art of making video games.

The day care will open after plans are approved with the city, which Cole thinks should be within three or four months.

Though Cole is starting the day care, he says he’s in talks with a company to run it.

“We’re kind of designing it as a high-tech thing,” he says of helping children learn.

Initially, the day care will be in about 12,000 square feet and be able to hold almost 100 children.

“We think that’s our start,” Cole says.

He thinks it likely will grow, though, due to other growth at the complex.

That includes Saint Francis Community Services, which has a contract with the Department for Children and Families to provide reintegration, foster care and adoption services.

“Our foster care homes program has, like, tripled in size, and we’re expecting even a bit larger growth,” says Saint Francis’ CFO Brian Carlgren.

Saint Francis is adding 20 employees to its current 240. It now has 31,000 square feet and is expanding with an additional almost 12,000 square feet.

“This other area will give us more of a storefront, too,” Carlgren says.

Though Saint Francis doesn’t need all the additional square feet right now, he says it can be used for storage and then Saint Francis will have “the ability then to grow into it if we need to.”

“It’s been great,” Carlgren says of being at the center. “Max has been a great landlord to work with. He’s making lots of improvements to the building.”

Communications provider Ideatek also is looking to expand at the center.

The Buhler-based company provides phone and Internet service and data transport over fiber-optic cables.

Ivan Kuhn, vice president of sales and marketing, says the Wichita office is projected to grow substantially in the next year thanks to a new contract with a wireless provider to build a fiber-optic ring around Wichita.

“We may double or better in the next 12 months,” he says.

Ideatek has about 2,500 square feet and can expand into the suite next to that for another more than 2,500 square feet.

Cole says things have gone well since he converted from his Office This concept.

“Oh, god, we’ve done great.”

He says he still needs a name for the center, though.

“You know what I’m thinking about naming it? I’m thinking about naming it the Former Wichita Mall,” Cole says of the space, which once was the Wichita Mall.

“Whatever I name the (thing), everybody’s going to call it the former Wichita Mall.”

Jason-Paul Febres to open second Taste & See in part of former Doc Howard’s space

UPDATED – Jason-Paul Febres is heading back to Old Town.

“Now I’m moving back to my roots,” says the man who became known as Sabor Latin Bar & Grille’s first executive chef.

The Venezuela native is returning to Old Town with his own place — a second Taste & See.

“Well, first of all, it’s about time,” Febres says. “I don’t think it was a matter of if we were going to expand. It was a matter of when we were going to expand.”

Febres is taking 4,532 square feet at 252 N. Mosley, which is part of the space developer Dave Burk is converting at the former Doc Howard’s Lounge building.

“I love Old Town,” Febres says. “I like the crowded scene. That’s what I’m made for.”

Febres bounced around to various restaurants before opening Taste & See with a partner at Office This in the former Wichita Mall. Febres says he plans to keep that site, which will be open for lunch, classes and private events. It will be known as Taste & See The Venue.

The new Taste & See will be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Febres is planning a “very, very upscale tapas lounge” and “a beautiful patio.”

He’s also working on a new menu.

“It’s going to be a little more out there, and it’s going to be more fun,” Febres says. “I’m going to have the chance to play with more food than I was able to.”

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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 … .”

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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.

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Office This reaches 75 percent occupancy with two new tenants

WICHITA — Max Cole was not short on skeptics of his plans to convert the former Wichita Mall at 4031 E. Harry into Office This, a 400,000-square-foot facility that leases offices and conference rooms of all sizes.

But construction crews are busy readying two new spaces for tenants that will bring occupancy to 75 percent this summer.

That compares to about 1 percent two years ago when Cole first started leasing.

“It’s kind of getting cool,” he says.

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