Business

Local developer IAS Partners is buying Metro North Shopping Center

Macy’s is the only business still open at Metro North Shopping Center. IAS Partners Ltd. on Tuesday announced the purchase of Metro North from longtime owner MD Management.
Macy’s is the only business still open at Metro North Shopping Center. IAS Partners Ltd. on Tuesday announced the purchase of Metro North from longtime owner MD Management. The Kansas City Star

The longtime owner of Metro North Shopping Center has given up plans to redevelop the mall and on Tuesday announced the sale of the Northland landmark to a local developer.

IAS Partners Ltd. is acquiring the shopping center from MD Management in a deal set to close in late April. The financial terms were not disclosed. IAS envisions replacing the enclosed mall with a new open-air center that will include local and national retailers, multifamily housing and maybe office spaces.

“We have the track record of successfully redeveloping two other major enclosed malls in Kansas City — Antioch Crossing and Blue Ridge Crossing,” said Spencer Thomson of Thomson Walker LLC, the attorney representing IAS Partners. “We want to give Metro North a new, fresh look that suits today’s modern tastes. A more open layout.”

Metro North, at the high-traffic intersection of U.S. 169 and Barry Road, largely closed in April 2014. All that remains open today on the property are a Macy’s store and three restaurants along Barry Road.

Macy’s, which owns its building, plans to stay in the mall.

“It’s business as usual,” said Jim Sluzewski, a spokesman for Macy’s.

The new owners also want to pick a new name for the mall that probably will incorporate the words “Metro North.”

The mall opened in 1976 as one of the new regional shopping centers. It covered a whopping 1.2 million square feet with several anchor department stores and more than 150 other retailers, restaurants and services. In its heyday, it drew shoppers from six surrounding counties and beyond.

The shopping center remained a top Northland destination for nearly three decades despite keeping to its dated decor. Then a sparkling Zona Rosa open-air center opened to the west, enticing Metro North consumers as well as tenants such as anchor Dillard’s. Retail development in and around Liberty also has hurt Metro North.

By mid-2013, only a few stores remained when Metro North Co. LLC and two affiliates proposed a $200 million makeover of the shopping center that would serve as the centerpiece of a 2-mile retail district running along both sides of Barry Road.

They wanted to demolish the two-story center and replace it with a “more compact, shopable” one-story indoor mall that they planned to open by late 2015, or at least by mid-2016.

“But finding the right tenant mix in the current retail environment proved difficult,” the company said Tuesday. “It is time for a fresh perspective on this prime development ground.”

IAS Partners was founded in 1987 to manage and develop apartments, hotels, office buildings and retail centers in Kansas and Missouri. It now owns and manages 500,000 square feet of retail and office space, along with 1,500 apartments.

IAS plans to seek tax increment financing from the city and other incentives for the Metro North project.

News of the Metro North Shopping Center sale was cheered by 2nd District at large councilman Ed Ford, who has advocated for years for a redevelopment of that mall in his district. Ford’s law office is just to east of the property on Barry Road.

“I’m thrilled that something’s going to happen,” Ford said. “They’re local and they have a track record of getting things done.”

Ford predicted the makeover would at least need a community improvement district in which sales taxes go to support the development. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if it also needed tax increment financing, in which new taxes from the development reimburse the developer for public infrastructure and other eligible costs.

He was hopeful a financial plan and other details would come to the City Council before he left office Aug. 1.

Thomson said IAS could retain portions of the current mall, but much of the complex will be demolished, similar to how it redeveloped Antioch Crossing, formerly Antioch Center, which now includes a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market. It also redeveloped Blue Ridge Mall into Blue Ridge Crossing, which counts Wal-Mart as an anchor tenant.

The mixed-use concept is in keeping with other enclosed-mall redevelopment projects across the metro, including one planned for Metcalf South Shopping Center.

According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, only a select few enclosed centers have been erected in the last three years, and one of those, in Salt Lake City, has a retractable roof.

Consumers once embraced enclosed malls where they could spend time comparison shopping in a climate-controlled environment. Now consumers comparison shop online.

Many of today’s retailers want to make their stores convenient, putting them in open-air centers where customers can see the stores from the roadways and then get in and out quickly and easily, said Malachy Kavanagh, a spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Still, several area enclosed malls, including Oak Park Mall and Independence Center, continue to thrive.

While Metro North’s redevelopment plans stalled, other Northland markets flourished, including development around Interstate 29 and Barry Road in the Zona Rosa district, as well as at Interstate 35 and Missouri 152 in the Liberty area.

That makes Metro North a “tweeny,” or a development between two thriving retail markets, said David Block, president of Block & Co. Inc. Realtors, a longtime area retail developer. Some retailers with stores already in those developments won’t need another at Metro North. But it could be attractive for neighborhood services or restaurants and for national retailers new to the area who want to open just one store north of the river, he said.

MD said it will continue its efforts to enhance several of the surrounding commercial and residential properties near Metro North.

To reach Joyce Smith, call 816-234-4692 or send email to jsmith@kcstar.com.

To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-226-2058 or send email to lhorsley@kcstar.com.

To reach Steve Rosen, call 816-234-4879 or send email to srosen@kcstar.com.

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