Sunflower Title Planning Move To WaterWalk

Friday, October 17 2008 12:53 AM

By Chris Moon
Wichita Business Journal

In a bid to stand out, Sunflower Title Services LLC plans to move to the downtown WaterWalk development by the end of the year.

The title company, founded in January 2007, will lease 3,000-square-feet on the first floor of the recently completed WaterWalk Place building. The company will be the first to move into space on the structure’s west side that originally was billed for retail and restaurant users.

An office isn’t a bad choice, though, says Tom Johnson, WaterWalk president.

“That’s what WaterWalk is all about – an eclectic mix of uses,” he says.

Sunflower Title will relocate its offices from the Twin Lakes area. President Richard Schodorf says the company plans to “change the way title insurance is delivered in Wichita.” He says the company’s offices will be upscale, featuring wine and cheese for buyers and sellers who come to closings. The space also will have water features and an Internet café for real estate agents.

For too long, Schodorf says, real estate closings have been drab affairs.

“I’m sorry,” he says, “most people get buyers’ remorse.”

Large purchases, like homes and business real estate, demand an out-of-the-ordinary experience and service, he says.

“I want them to feel like they’re getting a million-dollar closing,” Schodorf says.

Sunflower is trying to crack a market that today is dominated by First American Title.

It’s certainly a novel concept,” says Debbie Schremmer, president of Kansas Secured Title-Sedgwick County, which has five local offices, including one in Old Town. “in the title business, it all comes down to service to the agent, because they’re directing the business. If they have an established relationship with a closing officer with another company, they’re probably not going to move their business because of that.”

But for Schodorf, WaterWalk is the place to be. He’s a believer that the Wichita market - as the nation enters a major economic downturn - is going to explode in the next several years as the aircraft manufacturing industry remains strong. Downtown will follow the same path as Intrust Bank Arena opens in 2010.

Schodorf noted WaterWalk’s checkered history, marked by a slow start and missed opportunities. That will change, he says.

“WaterWalk is just slightly ahead of its time,” he says. “I think it’s so fun to be there at the beginning and watch it. Business will follow people.”

The progress at WaterWalk has been mixed this year.

There haven’t been any major announcements for the development’s yet-to-be entertainment wing.

But the WaterWalk Place building now is complete-housing the Greater Wichita Convention & Visitors Bureau. Residents also have begun moving into the condominiums in the upper floors of the seven-story structure.

Sunflower Title will be in the 16,000-square-foot retail and office space on the first floor of that building. The owner of Hana Café also has been eyeing space there. But Johnson says no other deals are ready to be announced.

Sunflower signed a five-year lease. Its rate wasn’t disclosed. WaterWalk’s posted lease ate is $17 to $21 per square foot.

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