It’s not easy being the Ward Parkway Center…
Take it from the last however many owners that’ve tried.The allure of affluent Leawood housing to the west, the prestigious Ward Parkway corridor and nearby south Johnson County subburbs make it impossible to resist. So owner after owner have marched in with grand plans, plowed money and improvements into the mall attracting sexy tenants like Staples, only to see them wither and die or bail because of lackluster sales.
In the 1960s and ’70s and into the ’80s Ward Parkway was one of the city’s premier shopping centers.
That was then.
Today a pre-holiday jaunt through Ward Parkway Center reveals the awful truth behind the lender forced foreclosure sale of 2009. Even despite landing prized new tenant – Trader Joe’s grocery store – times remain tough.
And not just because of the failing economy of the past two years.
The unsung truth of Ward Parkway is that many, if not most, of its more affluent shoppers have taken their business elsewhere.
And while it’s impolitic to say, in no small part the center’s image has been tarnished by its current rep as an urban mall. One that today attracts less affluent patrons and minority customers.
Over the years some have pointed to the urban youth its movie theater draws that has resulted in rowdy teen and tween problems similar to those experienced at Cinemark’s Palace on the Plaza.
To a small extent that movie worm has turned…
The once proud AMC’s Parkway 14 -movie plex is down 8 screens from its hey day. Leaving a large vacant space in the mall’s lower level and aising the question of whether AMC is planning on staying or going.
"Our lease is up this year," a manager told me last month. "But we’re planning on staying."
Ward Parkway’s interior main level may not be a ghost town but take away the seasonal filler stores and it’s getting there. Storefronts such as the giant railroad display, a Santa Photo space and a massive empty area fronted by "Boys & Girls Club" signage to name three.
Combine that with the Ward Parkway’s dated-looking flooring and a color scheme of beige and off-white and you start to get the feeling it could be on its way to becoming the next Metcalf South ghost mall.
Speaking of ghosts, an escalator ride down to Ward Parkway’s lower level passes over a skylighted empty space that now serves as a shrine to the once vaunted T.J. Cinnamon‘s. Yeah, there’s still a Dick‘s sporting goods and PetsMart down there but the way it’s chopped up makes it seem very disjoint..
Meanwhile, the 8 year-old Target – Ward Parkway’s north anchor – probably doesn’t come close to making up for the ginormous, shuttered Dillard‘s that until recently served as its south anchor. The outdoor, strip style shops – added to compete with luxury malls like Leawood’s Town Center – lend a measure of respectibility but with anchor stores like Catherine’s Plus Sizes and Lane Bryant it’s hardly hip or upscale.
The $64 million question: Can Trader Joe’s Save Ward Parkway?