For about a decade, developers have been working to bring new commercial uses to the vacant land at the southwest corner of 47th Street South and I-135.
Near the Kansas Turnpike exit leading into south Wichita, land owners have dubbed it the Southfork development.
“It’s got quite a history,” said Landmark Commercial Real Estate’s Ted Branson, who’s now the listing agent for the site. “It was basically brought up out of the floodplain … and they literally had to bring in tens of thousands of truckloads of dirt to bring it up. They had to move a high-pressure gas line and got it rerouted around the property. They got the Army Corps of Engineers to redo the entrances to the Turnpike and make it more truck-friendly. A lot of that was part of making it a viable piece of land.”
So far, an Arby’s, Verizon store and an IHOP have opened — brought in over the years by previous listing agents.
Now under new ownership, Branson says interest in the 38-acre site is growing again.
“We’re starting to see it’s really coming back as a viable retail site,” he said. “I’d like to say over the next year I think there’s a good chance that something significant will happen, or several things could happen.”
It’s been a bumpy road for the Southfork site.
It took a few attempts back in 2012 and 2013 to get a tax increment financing district approved. In this case, anybody who builds within the TIF district will pay special assessments to reimburse developers for public improvements.
Then in 2020, Jay Maxwell, who, at the time, was one of three partners in Southfork Investment LLC, was arrested on suspicion of felony theft of property or services related to work on the site. The case was never prosecuted, and Maxwell’s no longer a partner or involved in the south Wichita project, Landmark says.
Jay Vosburgh is now the sole owner in Southfork Investment LLC; he bought out Carol Murray, who had been an investor in the project, and his father, Jim Vosburgh, another of the partners, died last year.
Asked what he’d like to see happen with the property, Jay Vosburgh said, laughing, “I’d like to see them sell it.”
“We had a contract for a big chunk of it and then when Covid hit and that got canceled,” he said, “so it’s kind of been a bad-luck deal for a little while. But things are looking a lot better now.”
The seven lots up for sale range from about three-quarters of an acre up to about 30 acres. Sale prices aren’t disclosed on the listing.
Landmark has put together a handful of new conceptual master plans for Southfork, which show potential for warehouses, a hotel, truck stop, retail and restaurants.
“We’ve got a truck stop and a hotel combination that’s looking quite seriously at it,” Branson said. “From the truck stop-hotel idea, retail, we’ve got some warehouse prospects, I have an overall developer who might buy the whole site. It’s gotten a lot of attention all of a sudden.
“The synergy is built so where we hope to see some significant things happen here soon.”
Branson said he’s also optimistic about attracting a big-box retail store again.
“If we could get a big retail box back there that brings traffic and attracts restaurants and gas stations, convenience stores,” Vosburgh said.
Vosburgh said he would also be open to serving as developer in a build-to-suit lease situation if the right tenant came along.
It’s been a healthy intersection for a while, Branson said, but innovations and creative pivots coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic means companies are looking to grow and expand.
“If they’re looking for a new location and they look at Wichita and they look at that location from an aerial perspective, the highway connections are phenomenal,” Branson said. “It’s got to look real good from the air and that’s what gets your national companies’ attention. And I think Wichita has just grown enough to finally become a little bit more of a target. We’ve finally reached a concentration now that interests some of those retailers.”
Article by Shelby Kellerman from the Wichita Business Journal.