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Epic Center Filling Vacant Spaces; Wichita May See Downtown Rental Rates Increase

Jan 10, 2004 - News by


It’s been less than a year since new ownership took control of the Epic Center, but the landmark office building’s occupancy rate is the highest it has ever been. The addition of one new tenant and expansion by several existing ones will soon bring occupancy in the building to 87 percent, according to George Laham of J.P. Weigand & Sons, leasing agent for the property. The 22-story, 329,690-square-foot building was sold last February to an international investor group known as Epic Center Associates for a reported $9.5 million. At the time, it was about 64 percent occupied. A large chunk of that vacant space, 33,323 square feet, will be occupied by Hugoton Energy Corp., which will move its offices from the O’Rourke Title Co. building at 229 E. William when improvements are completed at the Epic Center. Hugoton Energy will occupy space on the 18th, 19th and 22nd floors.Work on the improvements for Hugoton should begin Feb. 1 and be completed about June 1.An existing Epic Center client, Hinkle Eberhart & Elkouri, will nearly double its space in the future. The law firm has occupied 13,488 square feet on the 20th floor since 1989 and will begin moving into the 21st floor as well, bringing its total space to 26,562 square feet.These two lease additions and some smaller ones at the Epic Center will dramatically lessen the amount of class A office space available in the downtown area, which could lead to some future rental increases.

”These leases are a significant impact on the market,” Laham said. “It’s a good sign for downtown Wichita.”

Other major class A office buildings downtown, principally the Bank IV and Farm Credit buildings, are mostly occupied, Laham said.

The other Epic Center changes include Dulaney Johnston & Priest, an insurance broker, moving from an 11,116-square-foot space on the 19th floor to become the sole occupant of the newly redesigned ninth floor.

Wallace Saunders Austin Brown & Enoch, a regional law firm, is taking an additional 3,000 square feet on the sixth floor. Petroleum Inc. will move from the ninth floor to the 13th.

The move of Hugoton Energy will leave the entire 5,500-square-foot top floor of the five-story O’Rourke building, formerly the Kensington Hotel, vacant, in addition to another 3,000-square-foot space.

Laham and Jerry Gray of Weigand have handled most of the Epic Center lease negotiations.

Weigand is also the leasing agent for the O’Rourke building and Laham said he doesn’t expect the space to stay vacant for long.

”The energy level in this town right now . . . is just incredible,” Laham said. With property owners having written down values in recent years, they are now able to offer attractive rental rates to tenants, he said.

In addition to office space, Laham said the demand for retail space is strong. He expects to have contracts signed soon with retailers for the remaining three locations in the Bradley Fair Shopping Center at 21st and Rock Road and is working on some other east-side property leases and sales.

Laham declined to confirm reports that the Eddie Bauer chain is one of the firms likely to end up at Bradley Fair.
West in control Barry West has exercised his option and bought 100 percent of Coldwell Banker Dinning-Beard Realtors from Doris Beard.

West left his position as vice president and general manager of J.P. Weigand’s residential division in mid-1992 and a short time later bought a minority interest in Beard’s agency, with an option to take full control within five years.

Beard is retiring, although she will remain with the firm in a consulting capacity for 30 days. In October, Beard and West acquired Anita Frey Real Estate, 5014 E. Central and merged the two firms, which combined have a total of more than 140 agents.

West plans to relocate the firm’s office at 3900 E. Harry later this year. The residential sales office will be moved to another location, probably near Harry and Webb. West said he is negotiating for space in a new office building near there.

The administrative office will move to the Coldwell Banker Northrock office at 8343 E. 32nd N., which will be enlarged.

West said he is also considering ways to boost the Coldwell Banker presence in West Wichita.
On his own Craig Graham, a veteran of 18 years in the Wichita real estate business, has formed his own company, Craig Graham Realtors. He was associated with Graham Inc. Realtors.

Graham says it will be a one-man shop, at least for the time being and will oversee sales for new and existing homes. He is providing marketing and sales for Mesa Homes, co-developers of Arlington Place near 13th and Maize and the Baytree addition of Sterling Farms at 21st and Tyler.

Graham has had sales in excess of $1 million every year since 1983 and in excess of $2 million during 1988 and 1991-1993.
Simmons Realty expands Gary Dryden, broker/owner of Century 21 Simmons Realty, has opened a third office, this one at 126 E. Second in El Dorado. The new office has five full-time sales associates.

Dryden, who has owned the company since 1980, opened an Andover office at 16045 E. Kellogg in March. The Andover office now has seven agents. And the home office, at 703 State in Augusta, has nine agents.

”Andover is working well, and we expect great things out of El Dorado,” Dryden said.
Construction contracts New contracts for construction let in Sedgwick and Butler counties during November were up sharply over 1992 levels, according to the F.W. Dodge Division of McGraw Hill Inc.

Non-residential construction contracts awarded during the month totaled nearly $12 million, a 244 percent increase over November 1992. Residential construction awards totaled nearly $17 million, a 46 percent increase.

For the first 11 months of 1993, non-residential construction contracts totaled $121.1 million, a 62 percent drop. Residential construction hit $219.6 million, a 16 percent increase.

For Kansas, non-residential construction contracts were $82.7 million, a 294 percent increase over the same period a year ago. The 11-month total is $638.4 million, a 12 percent decline. Residential construction for the state totaled $89.6 million in November, a 6 percent increase. For the year, residential construction is $1.2 billion, a 9 percent increase.

Total construction, including non-building projects, totaled $2.4 billion through November, a 2 percent increase. A new Spaghetti Jack’s restaurant is planned for west Wichita later this year. The Wayne H. and Kim S. Wong Trusts have purchased a 21,600 square-foot parcel at 209 S. West from Mike and Susan Rathbone of Wichita. Leo Goseland of Snyder, Sheets, Stewart & Goseland handled the sale. Construction is slated to begin May 1 with a July opening planned. The restaurant will be run by Ed Wong and Don Venhaus, who will be opening another Spaghetti Jack’s at 47th and South Broadway in early February.

Weyerhauser Co. has purchased 17 acres of land in Metro-West Industrial Park, between West Street and I-235 on 29th South. The company plans to build a 100,000 square-foot recycling plant later this year and move operations from 7015 W. Pueblo. Calvin Klaasen and Marlin Penner of John T. Arnold Associates handled the transaction.

The city of Wichita has approved issuing $6 million in industrial revenue bonds to finance the project, with a 100 percent, five-year tax abatement on new equipment.


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