|City/Town: • Kansas City|
|Location Class: • Commercial|
|Built: • 1958` | Abandoned: • 2006|
|Status: • Demolished|
|Photojournalist: • Peter Ackrill|
The 50s and 60s, the era of the shopping mall. The vision for an indoor, air-conditioned central building with endless shops. The first shopping mall was built in 1956 and it wasn’t long after that that major cities began to scramble to make their own plans for malls similar. Kansas City was one of the quicker cities with this mall being finished in 1958.
Oftentimes their names were interchangeable with ‘center’ and ‘mall’ this one being known as Blue Ridge Center and Blue Ridge Mall. Destined to bring a state of the art one stop shop it was located on 52 acres of land, eight of those being lost to the construction of the interstate. This caused a small wrinkle in design plans which were changed and headway continued. The project would cost around $12 million but well worth it being 525,000 square feet with a parking lot for 3,400 cars after completion. The entire operation was overseen by President William H. Reich, Robert O. Reich Vice President/Treasurer, Walter A. Reich Vice President, Secretary Kenneth K. Barton and Project Director William G. Dietrich.
Construction of the building took on an interesting design being two major structures divided into five sections bridged together by a two-block center walkway. Also built in its own building was an auto service station that was very popular, White Lakes Mall in Topeka had something similar. Open six days a week until 9 pm Blue Ridge was more than just a mall, it was a family outing, an experience, a date night, a catch-all to prepare for school dances and more. The two anchor tenants were Montgomery Ward and J.C. Penneys.
Construction of the mall took no less than a village consisting of 40+ subcontractors and 20+ suppliers. The center was erected by the H.H. Fox and Swenson Construction companies. Designing the intricate structures and how they would connect was done through the combined efforts of the following firm’s Homer Hoyt & Associates, Lathrop Douglass & Associates, Wilbur Smith & Associates, J.F. Lauck & Associates, Hare and Hare, J.R. DeRigne & Associates and Moseley & Co. Lumber for the project was furnished by Louis Schutte & Sons Lumber Co., masonry work completed by V.S. Dicarlo Construction Co. and Interstate Heating & Plumbing Co. for the HVAC system.
Some of the leading tenants at the store upon opening were Crown Drug, Safeway Stores, Harzfields, F.W. Woolworth Co, Newberry’s, and many more that would supply jobs to 1,200 people in the Kansas City/Independence area. Another principal tenant was the Blue Ridge Bank which had a capital of $350,000 and was headed by Robert Reich himself. The bank was located on the north facade of the mall.
With its huge success as one of the biggest recreational shopping centers in the region it was in 1968 that huge improvements were planned. The expansion would make the malls total space to 1.5 million square feet with parking for more than 7,000. A ten story office building called the Blue Ridge Tower was built near the east end and the Blue Ridge Bank would make it its headquarters. A 4-theater movie group and even more stores as well as expansion of the Jones and Montgomery stores were also underway.
But with the rise of technology throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the fad of online shopping sprouted and then quickly blossomed. Infomercial TV shopping also became a thing of convenience and with that shopping malls began to experience their slow demise. Attempts were made to save the center by proposing a $17 million proposal that never went further than that. Even becoming the home of the Cultural Arts Coalition creating a Courtyard of the Arts and a new dinner theater. But this wasn’t enough to save the massive building, a few months later the final nails would be put in its coffin losing both of its anchor stores within a few months of each other when J.C. Penney said they were leaving and then The Jones Store announced it would not renew its lease in January of 2002. It had lost its third anchor the Montgomery Ward & Co. in March of 2000.
But after many failed ideas on how to save the mall it was announced in 2004 that the mall would be demolished to make way for a Walmart Supercenter. The demolition of malls during this time was prevalent but this would be the first mall in Kansas City to be taken to the ground. Demolition on the once grand shopping center would begin in December 2005 by Kidwell Construction Co. A giant piece of machinery called the Orange Cruhser (Eagle 1000) was moved onto the lot. It has the ability to take 12-5 inch chunks of concrete and turn them into gravel. In fact, most of the materials-were recycled to be reused onsite instead of being hauled off to the dump. And just like that it was the end of an era. The shopping center and Walmart built ontop of the former site is now called Blue Ridge Crossing as a way to pay homage to the legacy the building that resided there prior left.
Gallery Below of Blue Ridge Mall
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