Todd Interests Redevelops Ward Parkway Center

Ward Parkway Center, located in Kansas City, Missouri, has been undergoing a transformation in its old age. When Dallas-based Todd Interests, a real estate investment and development firm, acquired the 40-year-old, 880,000-square-foot center in 1999, it was a neglected and nearly dormant high-end mall. Since then, the company has ripped the roof off 80,000 square feet, shifted the tenant focus from high-end to value-oriented retail and taken some cues from the center’s early community-focused days.

“Our goal is to create a hybrid lifestyle center that has the community of interior mall space, the convenience of exterior drive-up retail and the lure of recognizable big box tenants and anchors,” says Steven Smith, vice president of Todd Interests. The company, working with the management and construction oversight of Minneapolis-based Madison Marquette Realty Services, is attracting tenants that allow customers to have a lifestyle experience while stretching their dollars at the same time.

The company chose to redevelop the center, located on 85th Street and Ward Parkway, with this new focus after purchasing the property from Daiwa Financial Corporation. Ward Parkway Center, built in 1959 and located in an affluent area south of downtown, had been Kansas City’s dominant upscale shopping center for decades. In the 1960s, the mall even held concerts by the Kansas City Symphony in it halls. But mismanagement and increased competition from high-end Country Club Plaza, just a few miles away, caused the Ward Parkway Center to fall into obsolescence. By the time Todd Interests acquired the property, the mall was 60 percent vacant and had anchors like a near-bankrupt Montgomery Ward and a dark JC Penney.

“We realized the center was never going to be the high-end attraction again,” Smith says. “But we had a phenomenal customer base and a legacy of shopper history.” The company then de-malled 80,000 square feet along the interior corridor facing Stateline Road, creating a breezeway for drive-up retail space. Todd Interests began a large effort to lease the exterior portions of the center, which culminated in 300,000 square feet of new tenants. The current tenant mix includes a 201,574-square-foot Dillard’s, a 119,000-square-foot Target that replaced Montgomery Ward and a 14-screen AMC Theater as anchors, as well as Pier 1 Imports, Dick’s Clothing and Sporting Goods, T.J. Maxx, Starbucks Coffee, 24 Hour Fitness and Stein Mart.

“Ward Parkway Center has leased more new space than any other existing retail center in Kansas City,” Smith says. He attributes the center’s success to the area’s high-income demographics, high population count, high traffic count and the center’s history and great visibility. “People can eat here, get a cup of coffee and read the newspaper, watch a movie and shop for any item they might need,” he says. “These tenants create a real lifestyle experience.”

Todd Interests is also bringing back community-oriented events from the center’s past. While the Kansas City Symphony has not tuned up in the center’s halls yet, the company has held a community-wide 4-mile run for charity, invited Santa Claus to read Christmas stories and planned a number of events for the upcoming summer and fall seasons. Smith points out that the nostalgia factor is paying off.

“We are seeing a lot of families coming back to enjoy the center they grew up with,” Smith says. Young couples moving into the area neighborhoods also make up a large part of the customer base.

In 2003, Todd Interests plans to lease the remaining space in the breezeway, including a slot for a 25,000-square-foot junior anchor. Later in the year, the company will shift more attention to the interior portion of the mall and the side located next to Ward Parkway. Prospective tenants include a grocery store, hardware store and clothing retailers. “We have a lot of tenant interest in the potential space on the Ward Parkway side,” Smith says.

Chris Thorn

©2003 France Publications, Inc. Duplication or reproduction of this article not permitted without authorization from France Publications, Inc. For information on reprints of this article contact Barbara Sherer at (630) 554-6054.

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