There’s More the to the Plaza than the Plaza

Jun 24, 2024

As we all anxiously anticipate the exciting news of a new owner for our city’s prized jewel, the Country Club Plaza, there are a few things to keep in mind.

The Country Club Plaza property itself is tremendous: 15 city blocks, with well over 2 miles of storefront sidewalk, and more than 5 times the amount of square footage for tenants than Highland Park Village in Dallas enjoys. Prospective buyers Ray Washburne and Stephen Summers are well aware of the challenges they will face due to deferred maintenance, the state of retail, and other social and cultural factors that have challenged the area.  The buyers remain optimistic and excited about what lies ahead and, without a doubt, their ownership is an extremely bullish opportunity for this beloved area.

Most who know and love the Plaza think of it as an historic and iconic, architecturally beautiful area with great shops, a charming creek running through it, picturesque bridges, towers, fountains and sculpture throughout. Easy to assume it stretches from JJ’s fantastic social scene in the beautiful Polsinelli building on the west edge, to a game of tennis on the Plaza Tennis Courts.  What many do not realize is that the 15 retail blocks that are trading hands at the end of June, make up just a part of what we all consider to be “the Plaza”.

In fact within just a few blocks of the actual Country Club Plaza parcel that is changing ownership, the Plaza District boasts some fourteen hotels, at least seventeen highrises, and a dozen multifamily rental properties. Many buildings and businesses are owned by other deeply caring and invested stakeholders. These include Unity Church, the Jack Henry Building with the Puttery and Chief’s Fit, 46 Penn Centre with Prime Social,  Eddie V’s, the Skelly Building with Bo Lings, Lockton headquarters, CBIZ, and Commerce Bank to name just a few.  The Intercontinental and The Raphael are also independently owned and not part of the sale to Highland Park Village Partners, LLC.

Few realize that KC Parks & Rec own and operate the Tennis courts. They own and maintain the 234 acres of the Brush Creek Greenway, and are responsible for the beautification on the sidewalks and bridges that cross Brush Creek.  The Sister City Bridge is an asset of the Parks department.   The creek itself is a federal waterway whose flood control plan was designed by the US Corps of Engineers.  The water is managed by the KCMO Water department.

The Plaza District Council was created in large part due to this diversity of interests and ownership.  There are so many significant stakeholders in the District, not just within the immediate area of the shopping center as mentioned above, but slightly farther afield…UMKC, Saint Luke’s Hospital, the Nelson-Atkins, Kemper Museum, KCAI, Pembroke Hill School, American Century, the Plaza Library and Loose Park.

It is our goal to be agents of progress for the Plaza District in service of growth, vitality, and inclusion. The PDC works to make the Plaza District the most walkable, safe, and connected place in the Heartland.  We focus on connectivity between the shopping center and the neighborhoods, and institutional assets to the east and the west.

The PDC envisions a mixed-income, mixed-use neighborhood, with abundant and varied opportunities for everyone who seeks to live in the District, with more people coming to visit, working and shopping here, and 5,000 more people living here.

The intention of the Plaza District Council is to continue to act as a proactive convener of neighborhoods and stakeholders, and a partner to the new owners of the Country Club Plaza. With the support and participation of the community, we are looking to shape a district action plan that will form the strategic backbone for priorities and initiatives in the District.

Kate Marshall, President & Founder, Plaza District Council