BLUE RIDGE MALL
Blue Ridge Boulevard and East 43rd Street
Kansas City and Independence, Missouri

The second shopping mall built in the Show Me State straddled the corporate lines of Kansas City and Independence, Missouri. It was constructed by Kansas City's William Reich on a 63 acre tract, situated 7 miles southeast of the urban core of Kansas City, Missouri. The mall site was adjacent to the proposed route of the Interstate 70 expressway, which would run parallel to the north side of the complex.

Originally open-air, BLUE RIDGE MALL was officially dedicated October 17, 1958. It encompassed 590,000 leasable square feet and consisted of a main level of retail and lower service and retail level, known as "The Concourse".

The original anchor stores were a 2-level (103,000 square foot) Montgomery Ward and 2-level J.C. Penney. There were also a Safeway supermarket, Harzfeld's apparel, Crown Drug, Jenkins Music, Western Auto and J.J. Newberry and F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10's.

A 3-level (120,000 square foot), Kansas City, Missouri-based The Jones Store was added, which held its grand opening August 16, 1962. Initially, The Jones Store utilized only the 2 upper levels of its building.

A major renovation of BLUE RIDGE MALL was announced in July 1968, with actual construction being carried out between 1970 and 1972. The complex was enclosed and climate-controlled. A 3-level (208,000 square foot) J.C. Penney was added, replacing the original store. This new Penney's, which opened March 8, 1972, was part of a bi-level parking structure, built on the west end of the complex.

The enclosing renovation also included enlargement of the mall's other anchor stores. Montgomery Ward added 70,000 square feet, for a total of 171,000. The Jones Store completed work on its basement level, which extended its selling space to the full 3-levels and 183,000 square feet housed in the structure.

With this renovation, BLUE RIDGE MALL incorporated approximately 946,400 leasable square feet. There were now nearly ninety inline stores, including Hickory Farms of Ohio, Spencer Gifts, Waldenbooks and Kay-Bee Toys. Blue Ridge Cinemas 1 2 3 & 4, an eastern outparcel, showed its first features in December 1971. This venue was in operation until 1995.

The first commercial competitor, INDEPENDENCE CENTER {4 miles east, in Independence}, came along in 1974. BANNISTER MALL {7 miles southwest, in Kansas City, Missouri} opened in 1980.

BLUE RIDGE MALL was given a facelift renovation in the 1980s, with a Food Court and additional multiplex cinema installed in the lower level area of a vacated J.J. Newberry 5 & 10. With this renovation, the original outparcel theater became the Blue Ridge Cinema East. The newer venue in the mall was promoted as the Blue Ridge Cinema West. A subsequent renovation, in 1995-1996, redid the interior of the mall in a Persian motif.

Kansas City-based IAS Partners acquired the complex in 1998. The center had started to decline by the time Woolworth closed, in October 1997. In December 2000, Montgomery Ward went out of business. J.C. Penney moved on in January 2002, with the Jones Store closing up shop in 2003.

A fifth renovation of the retail hub had been proposed in 2001, with a price tag of between 10 and 15 million dollars. This project was to add an open-air "Main Street" facade of stores to the north side of the existing complex. A new megaplex cinema was also mentioned.

Meanwhile, vacant space on the lower level of the mall was filled by Courtyard of the Arts, which included an art gallery, performance spaces, classrooms and a ninety-seven table dinner theater. 91,000 square feet of vacant mall space became an antique mall. Unfortunately, the multimillion dollar remodeling plan was abandoned following the early 2000s shutterings of the mall's three anchor stores. 

By  early 2004, only a few businesses were still in operation at BLUE RIDGE MALL. In May, it was announced that the structure was going to be completely demolished and replaced by a new Wal-Mart SuperCenter, which was to be part of a new BLUE RIDGE CROSSING strip complex.

This plan created a great deal of controversy, especially when it was revealed that the mega-retailer from Bentonville was to receive a 25 million dollar "tax increment financing" break to aid in demolishing the existing shopping center.

As expected, the controversial plan was approved. The mall was reduced to rubble between late 2005 and early 2006. The 1-level (197,000 square foot) Wal-Mart opened for business January 19, 2007.

It was joined by a 1-level (135,000 square foot) Lowe's Home Improvement Center on December 26, 2008. Smaller pads in BLUE RIDGE CROSSING were leased by tenants such as Applebee's, Starbuck's Coffee and Games Workshop.

Sources:

The Kansas City Star
The Fort Scott Tribune
http://www.rodslair.com / Site created and maintained by Rod Shelley
http://www.labelscar.com
http://www.wai.com (Weidlinger Retail)
http://www.cinematour.com
http://www.acppubs.com / "Wrecking Blue Ridge Mall"
http://www.blueridgecrossing.com