© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Country Club Plaza has a new owner after years of struggles. Here’s what that means

Spanish-style buildings with terra cotta clay tiles gleam in the morning light on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.The 92nd annual Plaza Art Fair covers nine city blocks with artists selling paintings, ceramic and jewelry. Each year some 250,000 crowd the shopping area for the art fair.
Julie Denesha
KCUR 89.3
The Country Club Plaza was sold to a Dallas-based company after months under contract. The previous owners defaulted on their loan last year.

Kansas City's iconic outdoor shopping center has faced multiple challenges under its previous ownership, including high turnover and crime. The new owners run a successful shopping mall similar to the Plaza in Texas.

Change is coming to the Country Club Plaza. After more than eight months, a sale to the Dallas retail company HP Village Management closed on Friday. The shopping district has faced increasing vacancies and financial woes under its previous owner.

The Plaza has struggled in recent years under its previous ownership The Macerich Company and Taubman Centers, based in California and Michigan, respectively. The companies defaulted on the Plaza’s nearly $300 million loan in May.

The historic shopping district is privately owned but widely considered one of Kansas City’s top tourist destinations and an economic driver for the city. But as vacancies piled up, the outdoor shopping center was losing tenants at about the same rate as it was getting new ones.

Kate Marshall, founder and president of the Plaza Area Council, said the group is encouraged by the new buyers. She said she is looking forward to HP Village Partners bringing in local food and retailers.

“We feel like they are going to do really great things,” Marshall said. “Especially because they're going to bring the right approach. They're about preserving, protecting and enhancing the things that we all love about the Plaza. They don't intend to deviate in any way from the architectural charm that makes the Plaza so special and unique.”

HP Village Management also owns Highland Park Village, a luxury shopping district in Dallas that is similar in age and architectural style to the Plaza.

The company is led by partners Ray Washburne and his wife Heather Hill Washburne as well as Stephen and Elisa Summers.

Elisa Summers and Hill Washburne are descendants of H.L. Hunt, who made a fortune in the oil business and is the father of Kansas City Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt. Washburne is a prominent fundraiser for the Republican Party and was a member of former President Donald Trump’s intelligence advisory board.

Security at the Plaza has also been an issue. Recent shootings and thefts have concerned retailers and shoppers alike, so much so that Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker launched an effort to charge more cases of retail theft and illegal firearms in the shopping district. Most offenses reported to the Kansas City Police Department are car thefts.

HP Village Management has been in talks with city leaders and Plaza stakeholders in the months the district has been under contract. Marshall said the new owners recognize that security is a top priority.

“For a while now, not everybody has felt safe coming to the Plaza,” Marshall said. “We recognize that there may be more to the perception than the reality. If people don't feel safe coming to the Plaza, they're not going to come to the Plaza. And that has to be addressed. I know that these new owners have that on the top of their list.”

Without a new buyer, some Plaza stakeholders were concerned the district would follow in the nationwide downtrend of other malls, including the metro’s now-shuttered Indian Springs Shopping Center and Bannister Mall.

Marshall expects HP Village Management to start with beautification of the area, including adding trees and improving signage. Details on the sale, as well as the owners’ planned improvements and changes, are scheduled to be announced Monday at a press conference alongside Mayor Quinton Lucas.

Corrected: July 1, 2024 at 1:37 PM CDT
A previous version of this story incorrectly named the new owners of the Plaza. The company is HP Village Management.
When news breaks, it can be easy to rely on officials and people in power to get information fast. As KCUR’s general assignment and breaking news reporter, I want to bring you the human faces of the day’s biggest stories. Whether it’s a local shop owner or a worker on the picket line, I want to give you the stories of the real people who are driving change in the Kansas City area. Email me at savannahhawley@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @savannahhawley.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.