After moving to Wichita from the Kansas City area in early 2017, Occidental Management Chief Financial Officer Troy Marquis has had time to develop some opinions about the city and its commercial real estate market.
I spent some time with Marquis, a Texas native who thinks fast and drives fast cars, to pick his brain on a range of topics from the Union Station redevelopment project to the possibility of a downtown grocery store here.
Q: You worked for a real estate firm in Kansas City for a long time. What brought you to Wichita?
A: Being in Kansas City for the past 22 years, I had seen Occidental Management come up in a couple of cases with the OPx building and, at that time, Copaken Brooks (Commercial Real Estate), my old company, had a lot of land around that development. I had run into Gary Oborny and Chad Stafford at a couple of real estate events and they had an opening for a CFO.
I had been with Copaken Brooks for a while and I was looking for something fresh. When I was at Copaken, I looked at that OPx building and asked if we’d want to buy it. At that point, it didn’t make financial sense for a traditional approach, but Gary had the vision to look at it in an alternative fashion and reposition it to turn that into a Class A project.
Q: You’ve been in Wichita for a little over one year. What are your impressions of the city?
A: I like Wichita. I grew up in rural west Texas, so Wichita wasn’t foreign to me from a look and a feel. Looking at the opportunities here, I really like the attitude of the people. There’s good stock here, if you want to call it that. People have those Midwestern ethics. Years ago, I worked in Toronto and you kind of get that East Coast mentality, but I like the Midwestern vibe better.
Q: Lots of development is happening now in Wichita’s core area, including the Union Station redevelopment, which is an Occidental project. Is Wichita, especially downtown, in a resurgence?
A: I think the resurgence will be dictated based on the growth of some of the larger companies, like Spirit (AeroSystems), Textron, Cargill and Koch Industries. Having strong employment bases like that, it allows you to have some discretionary income for the retail and office environments. There’s pockets of growth that are possible, in my opinion, here in the future. They could produce some really good results for investors. Downtown, I think, is a key to all that. I lived through the resurgence of Kansas City’s downtown (central business district) and I see some of the same things in Wichita with the synergies of what happened around the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
Q: It’s interesting that you believe a turning point for downtown Kansas City’s Power and Light District came when a grocery store opened in that area 10 years ago. People, of course, have talked about the possibility of a downtown Wichita grocery store for a long time, though we still don’t have one.
A: That really helped, when Cosentino’s came. It helped solidify the residential growth prospects and made it more of a 24/7 environment. Having something like that in downtown Wichita would really help.
Q: What’s next for the Union Station development?
A: We’re focused on phase II and getting the main terminal building and operations building rehabbed and up and running. We’re looking at getting Faneuil in there by the end of the year. We’re also looking at options as far as growing to the south and making that more of a dominant block in the years to come. That’s all part of Gary’s vision — he doesn’t look at that through an isolated silo. It’s a long-term play. Going from Old Town to Union Station and then coming around to (Intrust Bank Arena), that can be a dynamic catalyst site down the road.
Q: What are your thoughts on the economy here in Wichita?
A: It’s still a favorable environment. Historically, Wichita doesn’t have that 4-to-6 point trajectory and we probably never will. You have certain employers that like the Midwest for call centers and that sort of thing, from a time zone and work ethic perspective. Wichita could be a really good location for that. I also think there’s some opportunity in some of the industrial around here, which Occidental hasn’t necessarily participated in on a large scale.
Q: They refer to you as the “gearhead” of the Occidental offices. Why?
A: People know me for my Corvettes. I restore them. I have a few, from a ’68 all the way to a 2016.