White Lakes Mall set for demolition after months of waiting

Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 10:22 AM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - After months of waiting, White Lakes Mall is finally set for demolition.

The City of Topeka says KDL, Inc., the current owner of what used to be White Lakes Mall, will demolish what remains of the building at 3600 SW Topeka Blvd.

“As soon as we get an asbestos approval from KDHE, that process will start so that’ll begin at any time,” Interim City Manager, Bill Cochran said.

KDL contracted McPherson Wrecking, Inc., to raze the structure and will begin at any moment.

Brian Lensing, the listing agent for KDL, said the owner and representatives have worked closely with the City on the project.

Lensing would not disclose the cost, but the City of Topeka previously estimated it at two million dollars, if taxpayers would have had to foot the bill.

“Obviously, the property has experienced some challenges in recent years,” Lensing said. “This demolition will align the concerns of a number of stakeholders, including KDL, the City of Topeka, and neighboring residents and business owners, and we are pleased to be able to finally announce what has been in the works for months.”

“People keep asking, they drive by, when are we going to see something? I think visibly if you go by there and look now, you can see changes going on, you can see fencing being put up, you can see movement toward,” Topeka Mayor Mike Padilla said. “Where we’ve been saying it’s gonna take us a little time to get there but we want to do it right and make sure that the community sees that there is progress so it is moving forward.”

White Lakes was built in the early 1960s and was once home to retail powerhouses Sears and J.C. Penney’s. The property has been mostly vacant for years and has become home to only Mainline Printing.

The building sustained significant damage when Joel Andrew Sink entered the former mall with other juveniles and set fire to it in December 2020.

“Ideally rehabilitation is what we would like to see, but there are certain properties that have reached the point that demolition is the only option, especially with some of our fire ravage properties,” City of Topeka Director of the Property Maintenance Unit Mike Haugen explained.

The city of Topeka started taking water meters out of the building on Tuesday.

Cochran says the demolition process could take up to three months, “that’s an extremely large building and so when we talked about the demo process there.”

Cochran said that takes knocking the building down and removing all of the materials, “so it’ll be basically a site with the basement but completely cleaned out other than that, so it been an extensive process,” he said.

The city of Topeka said it understands some people were frustrated with how long it took to get to this point, but it came down to who would pay the bill, “to me it was worth waiting the extra three or 4, 5 weeks to get this worked out with the property owner to save the citizens of Topeka $2 million,” Cochran said

“Developers or contractors who do the demolition, at times tend to charge government agencies more than they charge a private individual because there’s more structure and more requirements involved when you deal with the government,” Haugen said.

“KDL is excited to position the property for its future and do its part to ‘Bring Back the Boulevard,’” Lensing said.

The City said KDL’s actions are the first in the redevelopment of the property.

White Lakes has been scheduled for demolition since September 2021, when the City Council unanimously voted to bring the mall down. It had been set to come down in November, but demolition was rescheduled to mid-January due to asbestos information that needed to be addressed.

The property’s owner, Kent Lindemuth told 13 NEWS he would be open to speaking with us at another time.

In march of last year, Mainline Printing sued KDL for neglecting to improve the property. the lawsuit still stands and is rescheduled for April 4th.

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