In a circa-2014 physical layout, we see that a vacant Dillard's and its parking garage on the south end of the shopping hub have been knocked down. This reduced the GLA of WARD PARKWAY CENTER to approximately 741,000 leasable square feet.


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 included 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 section of stores at WARD PARKWAY CENTER opened for business in the fall of 1962. Among the nine stores were 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 in late 1962. J.C. Penney, encompassing 2 levels and 94,700 square feet, was reputedly the chain's largest suburban store. With its completion, WARD PARKWAY CENTER housed 558,100 leasable square feet and 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 accessed from the east and 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 1984, with the conversion of the Stix store to a Dillard's.

A second mall renovation, costing 32 million dollars, was done between 1989 and 1992. Movies 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 lower level, on June 30, 1995. Eventually, the original, upper level complex prevailed. Today, it is operated as the AMC Ward Parkway 14.

Meanwhile, a third WARD PARKWAY renovation had got underway in 1998. Dubbed the "Millennium Makeover", it reconfigured retail space on the lower level. New big box-type tenants were signed, such as Office Depot and Stein Mart.

The mall's charter anchors were soon replaced. J.C. Penney moved out in September 1996, with its 2 levels divided between Dick's Sporting Goods, 24 Hour Fitness, T.J. Maxx and Pier One Imports. Montgomery Ward, shuttered in early 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. Within months, a forth renovation, dubbed "Rebuilding History", was underway. Retail space at the southwest corner of the upper level was demolished, opening half of the previously-enclosed structure to the parking area.

On the lower level, a food court was torn out and replaced with new big box stores, such as PetSmart, Old Navy and Staples. In essence, much of the old, inward-facing mall was reoriented toward the outside. Dillard's was demoted to a Clearance Center in October 2008 and was shuttered late in 2009.

The 811,300 square foot WARD PARKWAY CENTER was now unrecognizable from its original incarnation. It had become a "hybrid-in-fill retail center" and was ready to embark upon its second 50 years of business.

However, it had a new owner to take it into its second half century. The Great Recession resulted in the mall entering foreclosure proceedings and being auctioned off in March 2009. Its new owner, Chicago's Babson Capital Management, recruited Kansas City / Scottsdale, Arizona-based Red Development to lease and operate the complex.

By August 2011, a fifth renovation was underway. This time around, the vacant Stix / Dillard's was demolished, along with its parking garage. Most of its area was paved. A freestanding (70,000 square foot) retail structure was planned for the site.

The exterior of the existing mall was also given a face lift and the 14-plex received a 3 million dollar upgrade. On October 24, 2011, a Trader Joe's specialty grocer opened in lower level space once occupied by Kroger. HomeGoods debuted -in the old SteinMart spot- in the fall of 2012.

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