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 downtown Kansas City, Missouri. The site was adjacent to the proposed route of the Interstate 70 expressway, which would run parallel to the north side of the shopping complex.

BLUE RIDGE MALL was officially dedicated October 17, 1958. The original open-air venue encompassed around 590,000 leasable square feet. It consisted of a main Mall Level and lower service and retail floor, 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. Promoted as "The Great Cover Up", its construction commenced in January 1970. Courts and concourse were air-conditioned with a new roof which included twelve skylights. The enclosed mall was re-dedicated June 10, 1971.

As the enclosing renovation was proceeding, Montgomery Ward was adding 70,000 square feet. When completed, their BLUE RIDGE MALL store encompassed 171,000. The Jones Store also 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. The final segment of the early '70s mall makeover added a 3-level (208,000 square foot) J.C. Penney, which opened March 8, 1972.

With the completion of its 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.

The Mid-America Cinema Corporation Blue Ridge Cinemas had been built, as a freestanding structure, in the east parking area. The 4-screen venue opened for business December 25, 1971 and 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 face lift in the 1980s, with a Food Court and additional multiplex 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 West 6.

A 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 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 considered.

In the meantime, 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. Adjacent basement space became a (91,000 square foot) Antique Mall.

Unfortunately, the multi-million dollar remodeling plan was abandoned after the mall's three anchor stores closed their doors. By early 2004, the retail facility was virtually vacant. In May, it was announced that it 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. Never-the-less, 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.movie-theatre.org
http://www.acppubs.com / "Wrecking Blue Ridge Mall"
http://www.blueridgecrossing.com