Situated smack dab in the middle of the good ol’ U.S. of A., Kansas City is a rich tapestry of Americana and the result of many different historical and regional influences. What originally began literally as a cowtown predicated upon the spread of agriculture and the railroad became a center for housing livestock and manufacturing amid a boom of industrialization. As such, postwar growth allowed Kansas City to grow exponentially, virtually unchecked, with sprawl as far as the eye can see. Today, the Kansas City area is home to over two million residents.
Much of this sprawl which occurred during the latter half of the 20th century included suburban retail growth. While Kansas City, in many ways, pioneered the suburban lifestyle center with the 1920s opening and continued success of Country Club Plaza, explosive retail growth and enclosed malls in the suburbs also flourished for a time. But eventually, problems arose around the turn of the millenium.
It appeared that Kansas City may have overmalled itself. Of the 16 major centers in the metro area, only two of them are successful enclosed malls today, and they are on opposite sides of the metro area: Oak Park Mall in Overland Park and Independence Center in Independence. Two malls have been de-malled completely in 2005 and 2006, respectively: Blue Ridge Mall in Kansas City and Mission Center in Mission. The remaining 7 enclosed centers are in varying condition, from just barely making it to being almost completely unviable. In fact, the idea for this case study is especially prescient. In late 2006, plans were unveiled to de-mall three more enclosed malls: Metcalf South in Overland Park, Antioch Center Mall in Antioch and Metro North in Kansas City. If those plans go through, that would bring the total to four enclosed malls which bit the dust in only a few years’ time, and that’s pretty substantial. Featured below are all of the major shopping centers in the Kansas City metro area. Lastly, we chose to include the mall in St. Joseph because it really is an extension of the northern KC Metro and less than half an hour from KCI Airport.
- 1. East Hills Shopping Center, St. Joseph – Anchored by Dillard’s, JCPenney, and Sears, this mid-tier mall serves all of northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas. It is fairly well tenanted yet dated, and sits high atop a hill.
- 2. Leavenworth Plaza, Leavenworth – Once a small, local enclosed mall serving the immediate Leavenworth area and anchored by Sears, JCPenney, and Ace Hardware, this mall has fallen on hard times recently, losing both JCPenney and Sears. The JCPenney space was retenanted to a gym, but the Sears space remains vacant.
- 3. Zona Rosa, Kansas City, MO - KC’s latest foray into what they perceive as New Urbanism, Zona Rosa shines as a popular mixed-use lifestyle center. It opened in May 2004 and features several Big Box anchors surrounded by trendy restaurants and chain stores typically found in malls.
- 4. Metro North Mall, Kansas City, MO - Once the premier mall for the Northland, this two-level mall has fallen out of favor due to its dated decor and competition from nearby Zona Rosa. Anchored by Macy’s, Dillards, and JCPenney, the mall features a very 1970s-themed center court with large balloons which float up and down. Currently, plans are under way for a major redevelopment, which most certainly calls for de-malling.
- 5. Antioch Center, Kansas City, MO – Originally an open-air center opened in 1956, Antioch Center was enclosed in 1978. Currently operating with only two anchors and the rest of the mall sealed, the 800,000 square-foot enclosed mall will be razed in 2010 and replaced with who-knows-what.
- 6. Indian Springs Mall, Kansas City, KS – This musty old two-level relic really died about a decade ago, but has lived on catering to the local hispanic community. In addition, some local government offices have also taken some space, but the mall remains largely untouched. All of the anchors are vacant as well.
- 7. Blue Ridge Mall, Kansas City, MO – Another dated, wonderful retail relic of days gone by, Blue Ridge Mall closed in 2004 and was demolished in 2005. It originally opened in 1958 and was anchored by The Jones Store, Montgomery Ward, and JCPenney.
- 8. Legends at Village West, Kansas City, KS – The newest of the KC Metro’s major shopping destinations, this open-air center is home to JCPenney, Target, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Cabela’s, and many typical mall stores.
- 9. Independence Center, Independence – One of two very successful, top-tier enclosed facilities in the KC Metro. Anchored by Dillards, Macy’s, and Sears, the two level Independence Center wins points for a wide open floorplan and a subterranean food court.
- 10. Mission Center, Mission – This smaller, 50-store two-level mall anchored by Dillards and…Dillards was mostly leased when it was closed and demolished in 2006 for a mixed use development called The Gateway. Strangely, the website still exists even though the mall no longer does.
- 11. Country Club Plaza, Kansas City, MO – Opened in 1922 as one of the first open-air shopping centers, this is where upscale KC goes to shop, see, and be seen. The Plaza is an example of a pedestrian friendly, well done open-air center.
- 12. Oak Park Mall, Overland Park - The other of two very successful enclosed centers in the KC Metro, and is anchored by JCPenney, Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Dillards. It is two levels and recently expanded to add the Nordstrom and more in-line space.
- 13. Metcalf South Shopping Center, Overland Park - The backstory behind this aging tri-level center with an awesome floorplan is almost as interesting as the dated decor and almost completely abandoned in-line space at this mall anchored by Macy’s and Sears, just one mile away from the majorly successful Oak Park Mall.
- 14. Bannister Mall, Kansas City, MO – The last of the anchors at this long, aging two-story mall was Sears and it closed in March 2006. The rest of the mall is currently hanging on by a thread and filled with mostly local, urban-wear establishments. Many of the national retailers moved out long ago, but at least the fountains still run. Plans have been made to renovate the mall several times, but have not panned out.
- 15. Great Mall of the Great Plains, Olathe – This large, sprawling outlet mall opened in the 1990s and was an attempt to capitalize off the successes of the Mills centers which were popular at the time. Unfortunately, this mall shot for the stars and got less than the moon as major success never really materialized. It is, however, far from defunct.
- 16. Town Center, Leawood – This open-air center opened in 1996 and predates the lifestyle center craze as of late. It features many upscale stores, including Dean & Deluca.
- 17. Ward Parkway Center, Kansas City, MO - This recently renovated enclosed mall retained most of the enclosed space upon renovation and features anchor stores Dillards, Target, and AMC Theatres, as well as big box stalwarts Dick’s, PetSmart, Old Navy, and others. Prior to the renovation Ward Parkway Center was aging and in decline, and the renovation repositioned it into a neighborhood ancillary to more successful centers like Oak Park and The Plaza.
Look for detailed posts soon on several of these malls, and use this case study to gain perspective and a general overview. Overall, we feel that Kansas City is possibly one of the most extreme fringes of a national trend favoring mixed-use, lifestyle centers and strip malls to their enclosed counterparts. As people in Kansas City dictate place-making policy for their shopping and entertainment purposes, they are increasingly choosing to reject the community-building places enclosed malls have provided and are instead selecting centers of convenience in a sea of parking lots.
Take a look at the list above of the major malls and shopping areas of Kansas City and the corresponding map (click on it to enlarge). Have we left anything out? Is anything incorrect? Let us know, along with your general comments.