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Kansas Citians speak out on vision for future of Country Club Plaza

Posted at 5:34 PM, Jun 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-03 19:45:49-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas got social media buzzing Friday morning when he posted on Twitter and Facebook asking users for their thoughts of the future of the Country Club Plaza.

The Facebook post quickly racked up more than 500 comments. Some people wanted more entertainment options, especially more kid-friendly options. Others wanted better pedestrian access, maybe even closing a lane of car traffic to create a walking mall.

Many commenters wanted to see more locally-owned stores on the Plaza, and argued any national chain should be a specialty store not found elsewhere in the Kansas City area. People living nearby stressed the importance of maintaining the character of the district modeled off Seville, Spain.

A representative from Lucas’ office said the mayor has held several recent conversations with stakeholders about what they’d like to see in the Plaza’s future. The mayor will work with city staff next week to look at ideas for making the Plaza more walkable as conversation on larger topics continue.

KSHB 41 News spoke with businesses, shoppers, and others to get reaction and context to the mayor’s social media request.

“There’s a lot of appeal with recognition and the status of the Plaza, so it feels like an honor to be here,” Anna Murrow, manager of EB and Co., a jewelry and accessory store on the Plaza, said Friday.

The store originally launched in the Made in KC Marketplace on the Plaza about four years ago. It branched out to its own storefront in 2021. Murrow said the Plaza location has led to an increase in business.

The only change Murrow would wish for is seeing more locally-owned businesses on the Plaza. About 25 percent of the shops and restaurants on the Plaza are locally-owned.

“As a small business, we love seeing other small businesses thrive,” Murrow said. “We’re able to work with local influencers and other local businesses and support local makers. It feels very connected.”

Cliff Couty watches development on the Plaza. Last week, he attended a meeting on Drake Development’s proposed Cocina47 project. The 150 foot-tall, nine-story building would replace the Seventh Church of Christ, Scientist at 47th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Current rules prohibit buildings within the Plaza “bowl” from surpassing 45 feet.

“We don’t want to have the Plaza turn into a wall of canyons on both sides,” Couty, who is president of the South Plaza Neighborhood Association, said.

The Cocina47 project will go to the city’s plan commission for a meeting at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, June 7.

“The Plaza is an iconic gem. We’re very proud of it. The architecture is unique,” Couty said.

Stephen Block, of Block Real Estate Services, LLC, has worked on the Plaza for nearly 50 years. He said the Plaza is not in trouble. Just like when Sears or Woolworth’s left, he’s confident management today will attract new, successful clients.

“It all got replaced with good quality tenants,” he pointed out. “The same thing is going to happen now. It's still a high-energy and fun place to be.”

Kent Price, of Price Brothers, sent KSHB 41 a statement which read, “The Plaza area continues to be the crown jewel of real estate for the Kansas City metro area and we remain confident that it will become what it needs to become for the next generation including entertainment, retail, and residential uses.”

The Plaza did not comment on the mayor’s social media post, but has recently announced new tenants including KC Sale Haus, The Shade Store, Pandora Jewelry, Psycho Bunny, Tirza Design, Lovesac, The Normal Brand, Pure Barre, Club Pilates, Ice Cream Bae, Chiefs Fit, and Puttery - a golf-inspired entertainment venue.

All the openings may be overshadowed by Nordstrom announcing it will not open on the Plaza after developers tore down part of the old movie theater to make way for the retail giant.

The KC Streetcar extension will include a stop on the east side of the Plaza once complete in 2025.