Topeka City Council votes to demolish White Lakes Mall

The City of Topeka will move forward in demolishing the White Lakes Mall.
Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 4:05 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The City of Topeka will move forward in demolishing the White Lakes Mall.

The City Council voted unanimously to begin the process to demolish the building at Tuesday’s meeting. Demolition will not be possible before several steps are taken in preparation, including a KDHE review and pumping water from the basement. Chief of Staff Bill Cochran says they are looking at a December date for the actual demolition.

The next step in demolishing White Lakes Mall is on Tuesday night’s City Council agenda. If approved, the city will take over KDL Inc.’s responsibilities to do so and take down the mall.

Topeka developer Henry McClure said with his 40-plus years of experience in real estate there is still life on the White Lakes Mall property.

“A developer doesn’t have to have a nickel. We got to have a good idea and people behind us, either an investor a tenant and put everyone together.”

The City of Topeka ordered the property owner, KDL Inc., to demolish the mall on July 2, 2021 -- but the buildings still stand.

The city council is voting Tuesday night whether to direct the city to destroy it and seek reimbursement for the estimated $2.5 million costs.

If KDL can sell it, the new owner would pay for the demolition.

McClure said he was working for the mall’s second owner, the Macerich Company, in 1983.

He is the on-site manager at the former Bennigans and Gordman’s lot down the street.

“It’s like the continuity and it all being put together. Yeah, I’m attached to it and I have a dog in the hunt. I’m not just some guy yelling over the fence, ‘get off my lawn!’ I’m not that guy,” he said. “But the state of the state down the street has affected my lively hood here.”

He can’t see an apartment complex working out or attracting retail business from Wanamaker Rd. and the West Ridge Mall there.

But, he believes businesses are willing to invest in the area, especially once the mall comes down.”

“McDonald’s scrapes their building and builds a new one so that’s good real estate. KFC does the same thing, they completely gutted it. We’ve got wendy’s across the street but when people come to the market to see my pad sights -- and yeah, I admit, Bennigans is an eyesore, I’ve tried to lease it but people come to look at it and they look down the street, standing at Bennigans you can see the mall, and it’s like well wait a minute. This area is going downhill.”

He said sometimes all it takes is a fresh pair of eyes to look at the area and see its potential.

“You kiss a lot of frogs in my business to find the deal and I’ve got chapped lips. You got to regroup, you got to step back and say look we’re going to do things different. Let’s find some different uses for the real estate that will fit in.”

The city council meets at 6 p.m. and will need six votes to start demolition.

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