Indian Springs Mall; Kansas City, Kansas

Indian Springs Mall in Kansas City, KS

Indian Springs Mall opened at the corner of State Road (U.S. 40) and I-635 on the west side of Kansas City, Kansas in 1971.  The 700,000 square-foot mall looks pretty much exactly the same today as it did when it opened over 35 years ago, save for many stores which have come and gone and very minor decorating updates.  Unfortunately, more stores have gone than have come, and today Indian Springs Mall’s days are numbered as redevelopment plans have picked up steam.

Indian Springs Mall former JCPenney in Kansas City, KSFor dated retail architecture lovers, Indian Springs Mall is an amazing dream come true.  The two-level enclosed mall stretched from Montgomery Ward in the north to Dillard’s on the south end, with a JCPenney in the middle.  Impressive high ceilings with windows flank the JCPenney anchor in the middle of the mall which has a long frontage.  The lower level of the mall only exists from JCPenney to Dillard’s and not from JCPenney to Montgomery Ward, and feels like a strangely dark subterranean world because it is only open to the upper level intermittently.  Several retail fans like us have created a film documentary of the mall and the circumstances surrounding its condition, which is to be released in Spring 2007.  You can even view a trailer at their website.  

Today, with zero anchors and a hybridized focus, Indian Springs is most definitely a dead mall.  It actually died as a traditional retail mall about a decade ago, but like many others it has carried on with other purposes.  In 1997, Dillard’s closed, and JCPenney also closed.  The last anchor to close was Montgomery Ward, which closed when the entire chain folded in 2001.  As the anchors left, so too did many of the typical national retailers.  The mall was then repurposed to focus on attracting a mostly Hispanic retail market, and remains with this focus today as about a dozen Hispanic stores and restaurants have opened, many featuring spanish-only signage.  In addition to the Hispanic focus, several spaces in the mall have been converted to office use.  The large former JCPenney space was retenanted to the Kansas City School District in recent years, which runs their entire operation from within the mall.  The former Dillard’s space has been used by the U.S. Postal Service as a customer service center.  In addition, several programs featuring humanities and the arts operate at Indian Springs as rent is low and space is plentiful.  Also, the mall’s name was tweaked at some point during repositioning from Indian Springs Mall to Indian Springs Marketplace.

Indian Springs Mall in Kansas City, KSIn 2006, the Kansas City government got tired of Indian Springs and decided it was time to assign it a blighted status, much to the chagrin of the mall’s owners and remaining tenants.  As the city sought a developer to tear down the property and replace it with The Next Big Thing, mall owners have sued the city to challenge the blighted status.  Also, as of January 2007 the Kansas City Schools are mulling over where they will move once the mall is torn down

So why did Indian Springs fail?  I suspect a combination of over-malling in the Kansas City area in general, the erosion of the local economy of KCKS, and competition from dominant super-regionals such as Oak Park Mall several miles south in Overland Park killed the chances for Indian Springs’ success.  As redevelopment and razing of the structure seems inevitable, we are reminded of how fast many enclosed centers like this one are disappearing.  Better catch it while you can.  The pictures here were taken in April 2006, but also check out the mall’s aerial photos on Microsoft Virtual Earth.

Indian Springs Mall in Kansas City, KS Indian Springs Mall in Kansas City, KS Indian Springs Mall former Wards in Kansas City, KS

Indian Springs Mall in Kansas City, KS Indian Springs Mall Foxmoor in Kansas City, KS Indian Springs Mall in Kansas City, KS

Indian Springs Mall in Kansas City, KS Indian Springs Mall in Kansas City, KS Indian Springs Mall former Dillards in Kansas City, KS

Indian Springs Mall former Wards in Kansas City, KS




Case Study: Kansas City Metro

Map of Kansas City Metropolitan Area.  Click on map to enlarge.

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.

Kansas City, Missouri Kansas City, Missouri 

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. 

Kansas City, MissouriLook 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.

Metcalf South Shopping Center; Overland Park, Kansas

Metcalf South exterior in Overland Park, KS

Located in Overland Park, one of the largest suburbs of Kansas City, Metcalf South Shopping Center opened in 1967 to immediate fanfare.  Launched by infamous mall developer Sherman Dreiseszun, Metcalf South is anchored by local Kansas City department store The Jones Store Company and Sears.  It is enclosed and nearly 800,000 square feet on three levels, including anchor space.

Over time, Metcalf South has fallen flat on its face and despite being open for business it is definitely a dead mall.  The two anchors, Sears and The Jones Store, remain at the mall, and The Jones Store is expected to go through with the Macy’s conversion in September 2006.  However, other stores in this large mall remain largely vacant and the center is a shell of its former self.  An art theatre and Vaudeville theatre operate at the mall as well as a handful of other stores, but most of the national retailers have flown the coop.  Mr. Bulky Treats & Gifts, Suncoast, Mastercuts, Foot Locker, and County Seat are among the visible store shells along the mall’s corridors.  The third level of the mall is mostly shut off to the public and has been partially converted to offices, except for at center court.  The mall’s floors are shiny almost constantly due in part to the janitors who are doing a great job as well as the fact that old people are the only people walking the mall (and they leave in the morning). 

Metcalf South Jones Store interior entrance in Overland Park, KS

A bit more about the mall’s owner, Kansas City developer Sherman Dreiseszun.  At 83 years old, he’s led an fascinating life in the realm of retail development and continues to do so.  He’s helped develop several malls throughout the country and holds a stake in many of them today, including Metcalf South.  What’s notable about these malls is that they aren’t always in the best condition.  His malls in Toledo, suburban Cincinnati, Denver, and this one have all languished in recent years.  He’s also been described as a very hard-nosed man with a personality of steel, and is known to drive hard bargains.  It’s therefore no surprise he’s been listed on Fortune’s 400 wealthiest Americans.  He has developed and owned Metcalf South since the beginning back in the 60s, and operates his base office from within the mall.  Many municipalities have been upset with his mall management policies and procedures as of late and have threatened eminent domain or condemnation of his malls in order to remove their blighted status.  The controversy surrounding his malls is notable as he continues to operate some very beleagured malls without divulging many plans to renovate them or make them viable again.  It’s all very interesting, and I think he’d be a great person to talk to about retailing because of so much first-hand experience, and a still presence – it’s too bad he refuses interviews. 

As for Mr. Dreiseszun’s plans for Metcalf South – he divulges none.  He says there are a few things he’d like to do with the mall but remains tight-lipped as to what they’d be.  This is probably part of the reason there is a bit of controversy surrounding the man.  People like answers.  People don’t like giant, blighted shopping malls sitting in their communities, especially when it seems unnecessary.  Overland Park is one of the nicer and larger suburbs of Kansas City, and in fact the second largest city in Kansas with a population around 170,000.  The city was incorporated in 1960, making it entirely suburban and defined by sprawl.  Perhaps as a result of this, it’s not surprising the city allowed Dreiseszun to give himself some competition and open another very large mall in Overland Park, a couple miles down 95th street from Metcalf South.  In 1975, Dreiseszun helped open Oak Park Mall which became Overland Park’s second mall.  It was immediately successful, and Oak Park is today one of the more dominant malls in the entire Kansas City market and boasts 2 Dillards, JCPenney, Nordstrom , another Jones Store, and over 180 specialty stores.  In the past decade as Metcalf South has rapidly declined, Oak Park Mall and the newer lifestyle center a few miles south in Leawood

Right now Metcalf South just sits and waits for the next big thing to come, but it’s definitely past expiration in its current state.  Let me know what I’ve left out about the history of Metcalf South, and add your own stories.  What other stores were there?  Leave some comments.

UPDATE 12/18/06: The ‘next big thing’ has come.  A Colorado developer has agreed to overhaul Metcalf South and another ailing Kansas City mall, Metro North Mall, into new mixed-use developments.  Metcalf South will be renamed The Streets at Metcalf and “will include upscale boutiques, national and local retail shops, an entertainment complex, office and residential space, and a hotel” according to the article.  With wildly successful Oak Park Mall and Town Center in Leawood so close by, I wonder how this will fare.  Preliminary plans for the new development are due sometime in 2007, so don’t expect the mall to come down immediately.  We’ll keep an eye on the death watch.

Metcalf South Jones Store exterior in Overland Park, KS Metcalf South exterior in Overland Park, KS Metcalf South exterior in Overland Park, KS

Metcalf South in Overland Park, KS Metcalf South in Overland Park, KS Metcalf South in Overland Park, KS

Metcalf South in Overland Park, KS Metcalf South in Overland Park, KS Metcalf South in Overland Park, KS

Metcalf South dead County Seat in Overland Park, KS Metcalf South in Overland Park, KS Metcalf South center court Mr. Bulky in Overland Park, KS