Archive for Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Builder purchases building on 24-40

Plans call for restaurant, offices

October 8, 2003

Local builder Mark Himpel says the reason he and a partner decided to purchase the New Town Square building along U.S. Highway 24-40 was elementary.

"I got tired of driving by it and seeing it go down hill," he said. "It's a great building. It just needs some work done on it."

The building, often referred to as the Bitler building, soon will undergo a transformation that Himpel hopes will make it more attractive.

"We're getting ready to totally remodel the front, get some color out there on it," said Himpel, who is a partner in New Town Square Investments LLC.

In addition, Himpel plans to split a lot behind the 8,750-foot building and construct two two-bedroom rental houses.

In May 2000, Neil Bitler closed a restaurant in the building that operated for 14 years. The building also had been home to a Hallmark Cards store, as well as Backporch Friends gift shop and a day care center, but all of those businesses have closed. Most recently, a martial arts business moved out of the building, which sits at the northwest corner of 24-40 and Third Street.

In some ways, Himpel's decision to buy the building from longtime owner George Anton was inspired by other development in town.

"There's a lot of new things going in our town to give our town a different look -- the new gas station, the medical office," Himpel said.

A new convenience store, car wash, liquor store and pizza restaurant are under construction along the highway, near the water tower. And Lawrence Memorial Hospital is building a physicians clinic just west of First State Bank and Trust's highway location. Both buildings should be ready for tenants within a few weeks.

Several businesses already have expressed interest in Himpel's building, including a couple of restaurants.

"But none of them is signed up yet," he added.

He's also hopes to lease part of the building for offices.

"We're trying to look for a little more service-type people," he said.

Most of the inquiries about the property are not from local businesses.

"It's coming from out of town, which is kind of nice," Himpel said.

Another large Tonganoxie building that's on the market -- the former home of City Ford -- has attracted a number of telephone calls to the Realtor who's listed it.

"I have had a lot of interest, but nobody's coming with any money," said Don Sebert of Fishman and Company of Kansas City. "I've heard from auto dealers to gym places, day care centers, lawn and garden people -- just a variety of people. Automotive is the obvious, because it's an automotive building."

Sebert said the owner of the property, the Auto Mall of Kansas City, Mo., wants to lease the 5,925-square-foot building. In addition, the 6.5 acres of vacant land is available for sale, he said.

"So if somebody wants to build a fast-food restaurant, they'll sell off parcels," he said. "It's got a lot of variety to it."

According to Fishman and Company's Web site, the asking price to lease the building is $3 a square foot. The purchase price for an acre is nearly $130,700.

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