The Harbinger Online

Highwoods Heads Out

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The first suburban shopping district in the nation, the Country Club Plaza, has been a well-known Kansas City landmark since 1923. Although it was created by the J.C. Nichols Company, a merge with the national real estate company Highwoods Properties left the land in the hands of the latter. Now, on Sept. 30., Highwoods Properties announced they have put up the Country Club Plaza for sale. The real estate company plans to sell the 55-acre property by early 2016.

Highwoods has a 17-year history as owner of the Country Club Plaza and has enhanced the Plaza as the Midwest’s premier shopping and dining destination,” Vice President of Highwoods Properties Kansas City Division Glenn Stephenson said in a press release. “Like everyone at Highwoods, I am proud of all we have accomplished. We remain focused on being excellent stewards of the Plaza throughout the sales process. The Country Club Plaza is Kansas City’s Crown Jewel, not only now, but for generations to come.”

Photo by: Katie Hise

Photo by: Katie Hise

Highwoods Properties hopes to sell all, or at least the majority, of its holdings on the Plaza. The company recently bought the Monarch Centre in Atlanta and the SunTrust Financial Centre in Tampa and needs the money to pay off debts. Highwoods Properties CEO Ed Fritsch said that it was a good time for the company to sell the Plaza so they could put their profits into more-promising properties.

The Plaza, which has been a solid and improving performer for our company since our acquisition in 1998, is the Midwest’s premier shopping destination and the ‘Crown Jewel’ of Kansas City,” said Fritsch in a statement.

The mayor of KCMO, Sly James, also recently released a statement discussing the sale.

Highwoods Properties has been a partner with the city in many respects,” James said. “As a former business owner myself, I understand the need to make decisions that account for developing business opportunities and trends. As mayor, I believe the Plaza always has been a focal point of civic pride, and I don’t expect that to change with ownership.”

The Plaza once had more department and local stores, and even a bowling alley at one time, but started opening national chain stores in the 1980s. Kansas City locals have been debating the pros and cons of the changing directory and whether a nationally-owned company was a good fit for the local shopping center. Thus, this upcoming sale is an insight into the Plaza’s future and whether it will begin to have more local shops again or continue with name brands.

Photo by: Katie Hise

Photo by: Katie Hise

Andy Epstein, a real estate agent at Red Brokerage and East parent of senior Aidan and sophomore Isabel, believes that who buys the Plaza will not affect its future, at least not in the near future.

Epstein said that even if the land is bought by a national company, the Plaza cannot change that quickly. There are stores and restaurants holding the lease, and the company cannot simply kick them out. Thus, the local stores will not be taken over all of a sudden by national chains, as some are worried new owners might do.

While some people prefer local stores on the Plaza, senior Maddie Willson likes being able to find name brands. She works at Mojo Cycling Studio on the plaza and is pretty familiar with the stores available.

“[I like the chain stores] because you know if it has a good reputation and if it’s a good quality brand,” Willson said, “as opposed to just hearing about it through word of mouth in Kansas City and going to find out about it.”

Highwoods said it selected Eastdil Secured to serve as the listing agent for the Plaza and hopes to have the sale finalized by early 2016. Nevertheless, the Country Club Plaza is still a Kansas City landmark and will continue to be for years to come.

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