Country Club Plaza

Coordinates: 39°02′29″N 94°35′31″W / 39.041323°N 94.591813°W / 39.041323; -94.591813
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Country Club Plaza
Kansas City's Country Club Plaza
LocationKansas City, Missouri, United States
Coordinates39°02′29″N 94°35′31″W / 39.041323°N 94.591813°W / 39.041323; -94.591813
Opening date1922 (established); 1923 (opened)
DeveloperJ.C. Nichols
ManagementTaubman Centers
OwnerMacerich and Taubman Centers
Public transit accessBus interchange RideKC

The Country Club Plaza (often called The Plaza) is a privately owned regional[1] shopping center in the Country Club District of Kansas City, Missouri. Opened in 1923, it was the first planned suburban shopping center and the first regional shopping center to accommodate shoppers arriving by car.

Planned in 1922 by J. C. Nichols and designed in Baroque Revival and Moorish Revival style echoing the architecture of Seville, Spain, the Plaza comprises high-end retail establishments, restaurants, and entertainment venues, as well as offices.[2] The Country Club Plaza is named in the Project for Public Spaces' list 60 of the World's Great Places.[3]

The center consists of 18 separate buildings representing 784,000 square feet (72,800 m2) of retail space and 219,000 square feet (20,300 m2) of office space.[4]


The 55-acre (22 ha) site is about 4 miles (6.4 km) south of downtown, between 46th Street and Brush Creek to the north and south and between Mill Creek Parkway and Madison Avenue to the east and west. The Kansas state line is one mile (1.6 km) to the west. The neighborhoods surrounding the Plaza consist of upscale apartment buildings and mansions, especially those of the Country Club District built along Ward Parkway on the Plaza's southern and southwestern side. The buildings are arrayed along a collection of streets at the northern edge of the Country Club District, which leads the center to blend in with the apartment and office buildings and houses that surround it.

Historic firsts[edit]

Opened in 1923, The Plaza claims several firsts among shopping centers:[5][6][7]

  • the first regional shopping center in the world designed with parking to accommodate shoppers arriving by automobile
  • the first suburban center with common management and tenant selection
  • the first suburban center with unified architecture

Market Square in Lake Forest, Illinois opened in 1916 and was first with those features, but at only 103,000 square feet (9,600 m2)[8] is neighborhood shopping center-size, not a regional center, and also, was built within the central business district of an existing town, i.e. not suburban at that time.


Brush Creek on the Plaza at night

The Country Club Plaza was named for the associated Country Club District, the neighborhood developed by J.C. Nichols which surrounded the Kansas City Country Club (now Loose Park). It is situated at the northern terminus of Ward Parkway, a boulevard known for its wide, manicured median lined with fountains and statuary that traverses the Country Club District. Nichols selected the location carefully to provide residents with a direct route to the Plaza along Ward Parkway.

Nichols began acquiring the land for the Plaza in 1907, in an area of Kansas City that was then known as Brush Creek Valley. When his plans were first announced, the project was dubbed 'Nichols' Folly' because of the then seemingly undesirable location; at the time, the only developed land in the valley belonged to the Country Day School (now the Pembroke Hill School), and the rest was known for pig farming.[citation needed].

Nichols employed architect Edward Buehler Delk to design the new shopping district. The Plaza opened in 1923 to immediate success, and has lasted with little interruption since that year. New Urbanist land developer Andres Duany noted in Community Builder: The Life & Legacy of J.C. Nichols that the Country Club Plaza has had the longest life of any planned shopping center in the history of the world. One of its oldest retailers is the Jack Henry Clothing company, founded in 1931.

While the positive contributions that Nichols made to Kansas City and urban development are undeniable, there is a dark history of how his influence impacted marginalized communities within Kansas City. Nichols is responsible for "redlining" and residential covenants[9] that kept Blacks, Jews, and other marginalized people from purchasing homes and living in the more desirable areas of Kansas City.

For its first four decades, the Plaza combined some higher-end shops, such as Harzfeld's, with a mix of more mid-level retailers such as Sears and Woolworth's, as well such quotidian enterprises as a bowling alley, movie theater, and a grocery store to serve the daily needs of residents of the district.[citation needed]. From around 1970, competition from newer suburban shopping malls led management to reposition the Plaza with luxury hotels such as the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, higher-end restaurants, and upscale retailers including Gucci, Polo Ralph Lauren, FAO Schwarz, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bally, and Swanson's. Today, the Plaza is home to a number of high-end and unique-to-market stores including Tiffany & Co., Michael Kors, Kate Spade New York, Eileen Fisher, Indochino, Free People, Tommy Bahama and Vineyard Vines. On September 12, 1977, a major flood of Brush Creek caused severe damage to the Plaza and resulted in a number of deaths.[10] The flood prompted a vast renovation and revitalization of the area that has allowed it not only to survive but to thrive.

In 1998, the J.C. Nichols Company merged with Raleigh, North Carolina-based real-estate investment trust Highwoods Properties, which now runs the Country Club Plaza.[11]

On February 19, 2013, a large explosion destroyed JJ's Restaurant on the Plaza. Believed to be caused by a gas leak, the blast left at least one person dead and sixteen injured. According to a statement from Missouri Gas Energy, a contractor doing underground work struck a gas line. Witnesses had reported a strong odor of natural gas in the area most of the afternoon. The initial explosion happened shortly after 6 p.m. and led to a four-alarm fire that caused the restaurant's complete destruction as well as damage to surrounding buildings.[12] JJ's returned in November 2014 to a new location, still in the Country Club Plaza area.[13]

In 2016 Highwoods announced plans to sell the retail complex for $660 million to a 50-50 joint venture of Taubman Centers and The Macerich Company.[14]

On February 2, 2018, Nordstrom announced it would be moving from Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kansas to a new space on the Country Club Plaza expected to open in fall 2023.[15][16] The plans were cancelled in 2022.[17]

Layout and use[edit]

The Giralda Tower, inspired by the original at the Cathedral of Seville.

The basic design of the Country Club Plaza reflects classic European influences, especially those of Seville, Spain, yet it does not include a traditional open plaza. There are more than 30 statues, murals, and tile mosaics on display in the area, as well as major architectural reproductions, such as a half-sized Giralda Tower of Seville (the tallest building in the Plaza). The Plaza also includes reproductions of San Francisco's Path of Gold streetlights. Other works of art celebrate the classics, nature, and historical American themes such as westward expansion, and a magnificent fountain featuring four horses rearing up on their hind legs, designed by Henri-Léon Gréber.[citation needed]

Although the Plaza was designed and built to accommodate visitors arriving by automobile, it is unlike modern shopping malls with sprawling parking lots: parking is concealed in multilevel parking garages beneath and behind the shops, or on the rooftops of buildings.

The Plaza was also the first shopping center to use the percentage lease, where rents are based on a percentage of the gross receipts of tenants.[citation needed] This concept was novel when Nichols invented it, but it is now a standard practice in commercial leases.

Several companies are based in the Country Club Plaza area, including American Century Investments, Russell Stover Candies, Inergy, Gates Bar-B-Q, Lockton,[18] Polsinelli[19] and Block Real Estate Services.[20]

Plaza lights[edit]

In 1925, a single strand of 16 colored-lights was placed above a doorway in the Country Club Plaza to celebrate Christmas.[21] The number of lights increased annually, inspiring an official lighting ceremony that first took place in 1930. On Thanksgiving night, tens of thousands of people visit the Plaza for the local entertainment/performances and to watch the switch-throwing to initiate the Christmas season.[22][23] A special guest or celebrity "flips the switch" each year.[24] The Plaza's "Season of Lights" is one of the city's oldest traditions.[25][26] The lights are turned on Thanksgiving evening and shine overnight through mid-January of the following year.[27] The one or two-hour ceremony is broadcast live on local television station KMBC. During the 2018/2019 season, 8 year-old Kansas City resident Hazel Laurie suggested that if the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl, the lights should remain up the rest of the year.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "ICSC Shopping Center Definitions: Basic Configurations and Types" (PDF). International Council of Shopping Centers. Retrieved July 15, 2020.
  2. ^ "Art & History". Country Club Plaza. Archived from the original on December 25, 2011. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  3. ^ "60 of the World's Great Places". Project for Public Spaces. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  4. ^ "Country Club Plaza Fact Sheet" (PDF). Taubman Properties. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  5. ^ "'Nichols' Folly'". May 1, 1999. Archived from the original on February 13, 2012. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  6. ^ Floyd, Charles F. (2002). Real Estate Principles. Dearborn Real Estate Education. p. 394. ISBN 9780793141838.
  7. ^ Scharoun, Lisa (2012). America at the Mall. McFarland. p. 8. ISBN 9780786490509. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  8. ^ "Market Square". L3 Capital. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "One Mans Vision". County Club Plaza official website. 2012. Archived from the original on June 14, 2013. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  11. ^ Staff (undated). "Kansas City Office & Retail Space – Highwoods Properties – Kansas City, Missouri" Archived August 8, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Highwoods Properties. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
  12. ^ "Plaza explosion leaves one dead, up to 16 injured". WAVE-TV website. February 20, 2013. Archived from the original on February 23, 2013. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  13. ^ "JJ's restaurant returns Wednesday". Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  14. ^[dead link]
  15. ^ Nordstrom Inc. "Nordstrom Announces Relocation Of Oak Park Mall Store To Country Club Plaza". Retrieved May 4, 2020.
  16. ^ "Nordstrom Canada".
  17. ^ "Nordstrom won't move from Oak Park Mall to Country Club Plaza". April 12, 2022.
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Plaza Lights Kansas City - Plaza Lights Ceremony - Plaza Lights". November 9, 2011. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  22. ^ Kaut, Steve (November 5, 2010). "Chiefs Top Running Backs Will Flip the Switch Thanksgiving Night at the Plaza Lighting Ceremony – Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles To Share the Honor". KSHB-TV. Archived from the original on July 22, 2012. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
  23. ^ Staff (n.d.). "2010 Season of Lights Presented by KCP&L". Kansas City Power and Light Company. Archived from the original on March 10, 2012. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
  24. ^ . The Kansas City Star. Archived November 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ "About Us -". Archived from the original on December 12, 2013. Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  26. ^ . The Kansas City Star. Archived December 2, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ "Jason Sudeikis to Flip Plaza Lights Switch - Kansas City News Story - KCTV Kansas City". Archived from the original on October 3, 2010. Retrieved November 21, 2010.. KCTV.
  28. ^ Hazel Laurie (2019). "Letters to the Editor - "Let's Celebrate"". Retrieved January 27, 2019.

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