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Newsmakers Johnny Stevens, Steve Clark & Stephen Clark II, Clark Investment Group

Friday, February 1 2013 12:00 AM

 Newsmakers Johnny Stevens, Steve Clark & Stephen Clark II, Clark Investment Group

By:Brian Whepley

Published in the Wichita Business Journal February 1, 2013

The Waterfront development grabbed headlines last year with the announcement that it landed Whole Foods Market Inc.

The store’s opening — originally projected for late this year in a new retail area on the intersection’s northwest corner — has been pushed to 2014, says Stephen Clark II, vice president at Clark Investment Group, which is a partner in The Waterfront with Johnny Stevens.

Clark, whose father, Steve Clark, is president of Clark Investment Group, hopes ground can be broken at the northwest corner of 13th and Webb Road in May or June, with opening perhaps in the first quarter next year. Space for other stores adjoining Whole Foods also will be built.

Until Whole Foods’ dates are firmed up, other tenants for storefronts planned on that corner cannot be signed or announced, Stephen Clark says.

“As soon as we have our timeline nailed down, then we’re able to discuss the site with other tenants and I would expect just a string of announcements,” including from other businesses new to Wichita, he says.

In the meantime, design details are being ironed out with Whole Foods, which takes time and isn’t unusual, according to Stevens.

“It’s a year and half, maybe even a two-year process,” Stevens says, noting each company store is designed to fit its local market.

That’s the phase Stephen Clark is working in, shepherding the deal on behalf of his father and Stevens.

“We’re still in schematics, so it’s progressing slowly,” Stephen Clark says. “There’s a lot of back and forth, a lot of decisions to be made, a lot of details and a lot of irreversible decisions, such as how their store and the center is going to look. While we always had some idea, there’s a lot to nail down, and we’re going back and forth on that. You want everything to look good together and also keep the integrity of the brand we’ve built in The Waterfront.”

Impact tenant

Stevens’ work with Whole Foods in Texas helped lay the groundwork for the Wichita store.

“It always helps when you have a relationship with someone and they’re comfortable with you,” Stevens says. “Through that relationship, we got to know them real well and kept after them to come to Wichita.”

That entrée will mean a lot to The Waterfront, bringing it more traffic and allowing it to talk to retailers who might not otherwise consider Wichita.

It also means a lot to the city, Stephen Clark says.

“That’s a great thing for the city of Wichita to have. ... Good things are happening when Whole Foods is coming into your market.”

Brad Saville, president of Landmark Commercial Real Estate Inc., which is helping market The Waterfront, calls Whole Foods a fantastic attraction for the development “and a testament to the viability of the Wichita market.”

“I have seen what Whole Foods brings to a development in other cities,” Saville says. “The Clarks’ and Stevens understand what it takes to make a commercial real estate deal in this economy.”

Paul Jackson, president of Vantage Point Properties Inc., which has developed three office buildings at The Waterfront, says the Whole Foods deal is a testament to the quality and consistency of the Clarks’ and Stevens work on the development.

“It just speaks to what they do,” he says. “They are very quality-minded.”

Look for more news to come out of The Waterfront this year, including the expected launch of 200 to 300 high-end apartments on the development’s northeast side; the opening of Firebirds Wood Fired Grill in the former Brooks Brothers space this spring; and other tenants for a couple of retail vacancies. Additionally, Stephen Clark hopes Viega LLC will advance its plans for a North American headquarters at the development. Look, too, for Clark Investment Group to open its new office behind Andover State Bank.

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