Dana Anderson, a shopping center developer who has spent 50 years tied to a company that intends to buy the Country Club Plaza, also is a well-known donor to the University of Kansas.
The Kansas native, a KU graduate who lives in Lawrence, is vice chairman emeritus and a consultant to the Macerich Co., which has joined with Taubman Centers to buy the Plaza from Highwoods Properties for $660 million.
“Because of my proximity to Kansas City, they welcomed my opinion, and I was certainly in favor of it at the board level,” Anderson said Tuesday, a day after the sale agreement was announced. “I’m enthused and very pleased. It’s an iconic center, a great center, but it could use some polishing.”
Anderson deferred to the current executive team at Macerich and Taubman to define exactly what “polishing” might lie ahead after the Feb. 1 closing date.
But he did note that Taubman’s specialty is developing high-end shopping centers — “and we’re moving more in that direction,” he said of Macerich properties.
Both companies have long histories in developing shopping centers and malls. Anderson became associated with Macerich in 1965, when he brought a shopping center he had developed in Topeka to the then-2-year-old company’s attention.
Anderson said Macerich, a real estate investment trust, had eyed the Plaza for purchase 14 years ago when “we looked at the center before it sold to Highwoods. We were quite interested in it, but that deal did not happen. We have had it in our sights over the years.”
He said the new offer, made jointly with Taubman Centers, “made sense to Macerich and got rid of a competitive bidder.” He quickly added that Macerich executives “have the greatest respect for Taubman because of the quality of their centers.”
An example of Taubman’s high-end properties is the Cherry Creek Shopping Center in Denver.
Anderson, 79, grew up in Salina, Kan., went to KU and worked in Topeka before spending most of his professional career in California with Macerich. He and his wife returned to Kansas to live in Lawrence, where they are active philanthropists for the university.
Two years ago, they made a $1.4 million gift to help build a new School of Business at KU, where they have also endowed the Anderson Family Business Opportunity Fund, the Anderson Family Football Complex and Strength Conditioning Center, and the Wagnon Student Center.
“In the early years, the Plaza was maybe a more expensive place to shop than we could justify,” Anderson reminisced about his student days. “But we do remember some great meals there, like at Plaza III.”
Anderson, who retains a major shareholder position in Macerich, said he “couldn’t be happier that a company that’s been a major part of my life” will own the Plaza, which “absolutely needs to remain a fortress, an iconic property, something difficult, if not impossible, to replace in the higher-end market.”