Retailers Want Wanamaker
Bethany Hughes | Photographer
In an area that less than a year ago appeared to be deteriorating to the point of blight, now stands an attractive strip with nationally recognized retail stores and new construction promising additional restaurants and retail venues.
The new development, Crosswinds Commons, is located at S.W. Wanamaker and 11th, in the space formerly occupied by Discovery Furniture, Room Makers, Factory Direct Appliance and Orscheln Farm & Home. Developer David Christie, of Christie Development Associates in Overland Park, said he knew the property was underutilized and seized the opportunity to redevelop the area when the Winter family chose to move their furniture business to West Ridge Mall.
“Topeka was already on the retail radar,” Christie said. “A lot of potential tenants are looking at opening locations in Topeka; they just need the right location.
Having worked with Academy Sports + Outdoors in other locations, Christie pitched a retooled Wanamaker location and they liked what they saw. Once Academy was on board, Christie said it was relatively easy to bring in the other retail stores.
“You have to have a big box retailer as anchor to drive the development,” Christie said.
You also need a great location. Mike and Holly Richey, owners of Five Guys Burgers and Fries said they have been trying to open a location in Topeka for four years, but they really wanted to be on the Wanamaker corridor. Before this development, nothing was available that fit their location requirements.
“When this Wanamaker location became available and we knew it was going to involve some new construction, we jumped on it,” Holly Richey said.
McAlister’s Deli owners, The Saxton Group, had the same idea. Vice President Adam Saxton said they had already been looking at Topeka as a viable market based on the mix of business people to build a lunch crowd, residential areas to build a solid customer base and retail shops to draw in traffic. However, they also wanted a location on Wanamaker.
“We needed to be where the highest traffic potential would be,” Saxton said. “We also like to go into new construction so we can customize the location the way we want.”
However, to attract that anchor store and the subsequent smaller retail outlets, concessions in rent levels and upfront fees had to be considered. In order to make the location affordable for the new tenants, Christie asked the City of Topeka for its help. The City Council voted to make the area a community improvement district that will reimburse Christie’s $22.6 million investment through a 1 percent tax imposed on sales for businesses in the Crosswinds Commons development.
City Manager Jim Colson said the City agreed to approve the Community Improvement District based on confidence that the planned development and infrastructure improvements could lead to incremental development in the surrounding area.
“Even an area as vibrant as the Wanamaker Corridor needs to continue to grow and improve,” Colson said.