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Dead malls: You could shop... until they dropped

Once booming, now barren. Let’s take a peek at malls of Kansas City’s past — plus hope for the future.

KCtoday_Ward Parkway Mall

Montgomery Ward’s anchor position is now taken by Target. | Photo via MVSC

Shopping malls across America have been left in a state that not even Paul Blart could save, and Kansas City is no exception.

Known as “dead malls,” these abandoned, dilapidated, or mostly vacant shopping centers have become a subject of fascination — especially thanks to the online popularity of liminal space aesthetics.

A yellowing image of two mini hot air balloons floating in the center of a mall. To the left of the balloons are several people walking by shops.

Metro North Mall and its iconic balloons, circa 1979.

Photo by Dwaynep2020 via Wikimedia Commons

Let’s go to the mall

Metro North Mall was once in its heydey.

The two-story, 1.3 million-sqft shopping center that opened in 1976 was once popular for its shops, arcade, theater, and grand plaza with a water feature + four mini “hot air balloons” that floated up and down. By 2010, however, the mall was down to 17% occupancy.

Over on the Kansas side, Indian Springs Mall was one of the largest indoor malls of the Midwest after opening in 1971. Locals may remember the children’s maze, pet and fashion shows, and anchor tenants like Montgomery Ward during the mall’s popularity.

KCtoday_Ward Parkway Shopping Center

As seen in Ward Parkway Mall in 1962. | Photo via MVSC

Back to the future

Metro North Mall — now Metro North Crossing — officially closed in 2014 and sat abandoned for several years. Now, the former mall site is a 106-acre mixed-use development anchored by T-Shotz, a golf entertainment facility.

Two years later in 2016, Indian Springs Mall was demolished. Since then, the site has remained unused, but earlier this year local government selected three development companies to submit redevelopment proposals.

Today, Kansas City still has a number of thriving shopping centers, plus other successful mall redevelopments:

  • Country Club Plaza | With new ownership officially in charge, a bright future is on the horizon for Kansas City’s “Crown Jewel.” Expect to see increased security, more local retailers + a return to the 15-block urban shopping center’s original Spanish architecture.
  • Blue Ridge Crossing + Antioch Crossing | IAS Partners, Ltd. — the same development team behind Metro North Crossing — also completed successful redevelopments at KCMO’s former Blue Ridge Mall and Antioch Mall.
  • Ward Parkway Center | Built in 1959 as an indoor mall, the now outlet-style shopping center houses staples like Trader Joe’s + Target. DYK: Ward Parkway’s AMC was the first modern movie multiplex.

Do you have memories of a local mall from back in the day? Share them with us and we may feature your story in a future newsletter: First date at the food court, trying on prom dresses at the department store, hitting up Orange Julius before picking up the perfect graphic tee at Hot Topic — we wanna hear it all.

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