Kansas Citians are absorbing the stunning news that one of its beloved assets, the Country Club Plaza, is up for sale.
Just three days after sun-drenched throngs roamed through the annual Plaza Art Fair, Highwoods Properties announced late Wednesday that it would put the 90-year-old urban shopping district on the market. The sale will help Highwoods finance the purchase of two big office properties in Atlanta and Tampa.
Highwoods acquired the Plaza 17 years ago from the original development company, J.C. Nichols. Spanning 1.4 million square feet of office and retail space over 14 square blocks or so, the Plaza has evolved rather constantly under Highwoods’ ownership by focusing on big and boutique brand names and a regional customer base.
Critics have justifiably complained the national-brand focus has squeezed local interests and Highwoods has frequently been insensitive to the Spanish-flavored history and architectural character of the district.
Highwoods officials have been gearing up for a major challenge to a new Midtown/Plaza planning document that’s making its way through city channels. Now that fight — or the possibility of compromise — will fall to new owners.
Conversations quickly turned to whether any Kansas City real estate operations would have sufficient cash or interest in taking on the thriving local asset. Local ownership is in no way guaranteed, though Kansas Citians may hope and plead that it would be preferred.