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WaterWalk courting retro bowling alley

Friday, November 2 2007 12:00 AM
By: Chris Moon
Wichita Business Journal

WaterWalk developers are courting a St. Louis bowling alley and martini lounge to become the next major tenant in their downtown project.

A deal hasn't been inked with the retro Pin-Up Bowl, but owner Joe Edwards says Wichita would be a good location for his 3-year-old business. Decorated with vintage pin-up posters, it features signature martinis and a dozen lanes of bowling.

The Pin-Up Bowl so far has locations in St. Louis and Kansas City, Kan.

"There are a lot of possibilities for that concept. People really enjoy it," says Edwards, who has numerous other restaurant and entertainment venues in St. Louis. "Kansas City was the right opportunity at the right time. Wichita really looks like it could be."

The Pin-Up Bowl opened its second location during the past year at The Legends at Village West in Kansas City, near the Kansas Speedway. Its first location opened in 2003 in St. Louis.

Edwards says no timetable has been established to hammer out a deal in Wichita.

But the process provides a glimpse into the strategy of the WaterWalk developers who for years have been frustrated in their attempts to land major tenants to their public-private development, which has been priced at more than $100 million.

Developers appear to be looking for more entertainment venues for the site. They also are targeting businesses that have landed recently at Village West.

Brad Saville, retail leasing agent for WaterWalk, says he's negotiating with several prospects, including Pin-Up Bowl.

"I'd say that one's a little further along than most," he says.
Kansas City Connection
So far Gander Mountain is the lone attraction to WaterWalk, which has been in the works for more than five years.

But the development has gained steam this year with construction beginning on an upscale condominium tower.

Also, ground broke nearby this fall on the new headquarters for the Wichita Area Association of Realtors.

Pat Ayars, vice president of Key Construction Inc., which is involved in WaterWalk, says developers "are working on a whole scheme for a number of retail tenants, kind of a whole movement toward an entertainment district in WaterWalk."

So far, the only dining establishment to commit to the mixed-use project is Saddle Ranch Chop House, a California-based Western restaurant chain with dozens of locations across the country. Saddle Ranch has a connection to the Pin-Up Bowl in that the two are neighbors at Village West.

Brad Saville, president of Landmark Commercial Real Estate Inc., says he's targeted some Village West tenants as prospects. Those businesses already have experience opening shops in the Midwest.

"That's kind of natural," says Saville "It's a little easier progression than coming from three states over."

More Momentum
Edwards says WaterWalk developers approached him after seeing one of his two Pin-Up Bowl locations.

"I'm real open to it," he says.

Edwards in 2004 opened his Pin-Up Bowl concept in St. Louis' Loop area, a prominent arts and entertainment district in the city. He describes it as a "good martini lounge that happened to have bowling."

The location is near Edwards' top creation, Blueberry Hill, a restaurant and music club featuring live performers. Rock legend Chuck Berry still plays there.

Edwards says he's been looking at several cities for additional expansion of the Pin-Up Bowl.

"We're interested in any place that is interested in us," Edwards says. "It's still being talked about."

Saville says the Pin-Up Bowl is modern and trendy, "away from Friday or Saturday night league play." Edwards also has shown an ability to help rejuvenate urban areas.

"He understands those cycles," Saville says.
The addition of a business like the Pin-Up Bowl conceivably would offer competition to the numerous Old Town bars and restaurants that control the nightlife in the city center today.

Uptown Bistro
and Oeno Wine Bar owner Melad Stephan says he'd never heard of the Pin-Up Bowl but notes entertainment has been slow in coming to WaterWalk.

"They need some kind of a bar down there or something," he says.

Financing appears the biggest hitch in discussions to bring the Pin-Up Bowl to Wichita.

Edwards says he is opening a new bowling alley this year in St. Louis, the Flamingo Bowl. He also plans to break ground later this year on a seven-story boutique hotel next door to his Pin-Up Bowl.

"I'm kind of tied up on what I'm doing," Edwards says.

But he says he was open to a "hybrid" deal in which he would put some money up for a building, but not all of it.

Current talks are for the Pin-Up Bowl to share a building with Saddle Ranch Chop House, Saville says.

"It's definitely a good fit for them to be there," he says. "It's a matter of financing."


Location: Waterman and Main, southwest corner.
Phone: (316) 219-6060.
Developers: City of Wichita in partnership with Dave Burk, Dave Wells and Jack DeBoer.
Major tenant: Gander Mountain.

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