WARD PARKWAY CENTER
Ward Parkway and West 89th Street
Kansas City, Missouri

The third suburban shopping mall in -or around- The City of Fountains was developed by Kansas City's Kroh Brothers. WARD PARKWAY CENTER, designed by Fullerton, McCamis & Baker Associates, was a fully-enclosed complex located 20 miles south of the city center, on a 38.8 acre parcel just east of the Kansas / Missouri boundary.

Ground was broken for the shopping center in July 1958. The first two operational stores, a 3-level (127,200 square foot) Montgomery Ward and (32,100 square foot) Kroger supermarket, opened for business September 30, 1959.

The remainder of the 15 million dollar retail hub was completed in two stages. The first, encompassing twenty-one stores and services, was dedicated August 16, 1962. This brought tenants such as Lerner Shops, Crown Drug, House of Fabrics, a 2-level (39,300 square foot) Kline's apparel and 1-level (22,400 square foot) F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10.

The final nine-store section was open for business within three months. This added Wolferman’s restaurant-lounge & grocery, DuVall’s ladies' wear, a branch of the Jackson County Public Library, Atzenweiler’s Photographic Studios, Loren’s Flowers and a Merle Norman Cosmetic Studio.

A second anchor also joined the mall. A 2-level (94,700 square foot) J.C. Penney opened its doors on November 1, 1962. With its completion, WARD PARKWAY CENTER housed approximately 558,100 leasable square feet and contained forty-seven store spaces.

The mall was situated on 2 levels. The upper floor, or Concourse Mall, was accessed from the west and State Line Road. The lower floor, or Lincoln Mall, was entered from the east, on Ward Parkway.

Mall motion picture history was made at WARD PARKWAY CENTER. America's first in-mall multiplex cinema, the Durwood Theatres Parkway One & Two, showed its first features July 12, 1963. The multiplex was in business until 1978.

Competing shopping centers on the Missouri side of the metro area included COUNTRY CLUB PLAZA (1922) {4.6 miles northeast, in Kansas City} and BANNISTER MALL (1980) {4.4 miles southeast, also in Kansas City}. On the Kansas side, there were METCALF SOUTH CENTER (1967) {3.1 miles southwest, in Overland Park} and OAK PARK MALL (1975) {5.9 miles southwest, also in Overland Park}.

The first expansion of the WARD PARKWAY mall consisted of the addition of a 4-level (201,500 square foot), Saint Louis-based Stix, Baer & Fuller. The store, dedicated February 5, 1973, was built over, and surrounded by, a multilevel parking deck. Anchor rebrandings commenced in the spring of 1985, with the conversion of the Stix store to a Dillard's.

A second mall renovation, costing 32 million dollars, was done between 1989 and 1991. Much interior space was refurbished, with a large Rotunda area installed. Movies also returned to the mall, after a 13-year hiatus. The American Multi-Cinema Ward Parkway 12 opened for business on November 22, 1991. An additional 8-screens opened on the mall's Ward Parkway (or Lower) Level during 1995. These additional auditoria were shuttered in March 2001.

Meanwhile, new stores opened in the mid-1990s, such as a (40,000 square foot) Stein Mart. However, by the late 1990s, the 880,000 square foot WARD PARKWAY CENTER was in a downward spiral. The complex changed hands twice.

Cincinnati's Ward Realty, a subsidiary of Madison Marquette, bought the property in August 1998. After less than a year, the mall had been sold to Dallas' Todd Interests. It was decided to partially demall the State Line (or Upper) Level, with 85,000 square feet of store space being demolished as part of a so-called "Millennium Makeover".

J.C. Penney had shuttered their WARD PARKWAY store in September 1996. Its 2 levels were divided between a (34,900 square foot) Dick's Sporting Goods, (37,700 square foot) 24 Hour Fitness, (11,000 square foot) Pier One and (22,400 square foot) Off Broadway Shoes. A (30,000 square foot) T.J. Maxx was installed in adjacent upper level space.

Montgomery Ward, shuttered in March 2001, was razed, with a 2-level (118,000 square foot) Target built on its spot. This store opened October 9, 2002. In May 2003, the mall was purchased by a joint venture of Beachwood, Ohio-based Developers Diversified Realty and New York City-based Coventry Real Estate Advisors. By October 2004, a fourth renovation, dubbed "Rebuilding History", was underway.

The Ward Parkway Level was repopulated with big box stores, including a (22,200 square foot) PetSmart, (22,500 square foot) Staples and (15,900 square foot) Old Navy. The 795,000 square foot WARD PARKWAY CENTER was now almost unrecognizable from its original incarnation. It had become a "hybrid-in-fill retail center".

Stein Mart pulled the plug on their store in the fall of 2004, with Steve & Barry's University Sportswear assuming the vacant space in the fall of 2006.  Dillard's was demoted to a Clearance Center in October 2008 and was shuttered in late 2009.

The Great Recession resulted in the mall entering foreclosure proceedings and being auctioned off in March 2009. Its new owner was Hartford, Connecticut's Cornerstone Real Estate Advisors. By August 2011, a fifth renovation was underway.

This time around, the vacant Stix / Dillard's was demolished, along with its parking garage. The exterior of the mall was given a face lift and the cinema megaplex, now operating as the American Multi-Cinema Ward Parkway 14, received a 3 million dollar upgrade.

On October 24, 2011, a Trader Joe's specialty grocer opened in Ward Parkway Level space previously occupied by Staples. HomeGoods debuted, in the old Stein Mart / Steve & Barry's spot, in the fall of 2012.

Work got underway on a 16 million dollar Dining Pavilion in the spring of 2016. The open-air food facility, built on the old Stix / Dillard's space, would feature six restaurants, encompass 31,000 leasable square feet, and open onto a covered (21,000 square foot) public plaza. An official dedication was held on October 20, 2017.  

Sources:

The Kansas City Star
www.cinematreasures.org
http://www.ddr.com (Developers Diversified Realty)
http://www.wardparkwaycenter.com
Kansas City Business Journal
Historysandiego.edu
www.heartlandbusiness.com