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Tire distributor signs big lease in south Wichita

Tire distributor signs big lease in south Wichita

Premium content from Wichita Business Journal – by Chris Moon

Huntersville, N.C.-based American Tire Distributors American Tire Distributors Follow this company will open a distribution facility in south Wichita, bringing an expected 20 to 25 jobs to the Air Capital.

The company has leased the former Unilever Foodsolutions Unilever Foodsolutions Follow this company building at 5015 S. Water Circle — a 113,000-square-foot structure that has been vacant for nearly two years. ATD plans to open its facility in September.

The national company doesn’t have a presence in Wichita. Instead, the firm has served this market through distribution centers in Kansas City, Mo., and Lincoln, Neb.

“This new facility will substantially improve our service levels to tire and automotive service retailers in the Wichita and central Kansas market,” says Ron Sinclair, senior vice president of marketing for American Tire Distributors.

In addition to adding a new employer to Wichita, the lease is a good sign for an industrial real estate market that has been sluggish during the past two years as large warehouse buildings have languished on the market. The Unilever building was among the largest of those.

Marlin Penner, of NAI John T. Arnold Associates Inc. NAI John T. Arnold Associates Inc. Follow this company , was the local broker in the deal.

“I think we’re seeing more activity than we had even six months ago. And I think this is a good example of that. We’re feeling better about things,” he says.

Improving market
American Tire Distributors describes itself as one of the country’s largest independent suppliers of replacement tires, operating 94 distribution centers and serving 39 states. The company employs more than 2,500 people nationally.

In Wichita, the company has been serving the market out of Kansas City and Lincoln. Out of the old Unilever building, it will serve 400 retail sites.

Ray Torres, manager of Bosley’s Tire at Broadway and MacArthur, says the change will be a good one. ATD is one of Bosley’s biggest suppliers. The store gets a truckload of tires from ATD almost daily.

“We’ll be able to get products the same day (as the order), instead of having to order them and get them the next day,” Torres says.

American Tire Distributors is leasing the former Unilever building from Blue Dog LLC, an out-of-state real estate trust. Penner, of John. T. Arnold, says ATD signed a long-term lease.

Unilever, a European company, closed its Wichita plant in the summer of 2009, putting about 110 people out of work. Unilever’s actual lease terminated in March 2010.

The Unilever building was constructed in 1994 and expanded in 2001. It sits on 20 acres just southwest of 47th Street South and Broadway.

The lease deal is part of a general warming in the industrial real estate market, say local brokers who specialize in that field.

For more than two years, the market has struggled with large vacancies.

Manufacturers and machine shops either were sitting on the sidelines or vacating some space. The Coleman Co. The Coleman Co. Follow this company left some large warehouse vacancies in Wichita, and other industrial space just sat empty.

But Scott Salome, of Grubb & Ellis | Martens Commercial Group Grubb & Ellis | Martens Commercial Group Follow this company , says there been a lot more activity recently from machine shops and users of warehouse space. He says those companies appear to be feeling better about their sales numbers. It’s still difficult, however, to get them to move forward on deals, Salome says.

“It’s been very soft, but things are improving. I’m pretty optimistic about the balance of this year,” he says.