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blue ridge mall

Blue Ridge Mall

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Location Class:
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.

blue ridge mallOftentimes 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.




Bibliography

https://www.newspapers.com/clip/105120695/the-kansas-city-star/#

https://www.newspapers.com/clip/105120740/the-kansas-city-star/

https://www.newspapers.com/image/658720914/?terms=blue%20ridge%20center&match=1

https://www.newspapers.com/image/658719999/?terms=blue%20ridge%20center&match=1

https://www.newspapers.com/image/658720016/?terms=blue%20ridge%20center&match=1

https://www.newspapers.com/image/658720968/?terms=blue%20ridge%20center&match=1

https://www.newspapers.com/image/658720076/?terms=blue%20ridge%20center&match=1

https://www.newspapers.com/image/675341724/?terms=blue%20ridge%20mall&match=1

https://www.newspapers.com/image/686836527/?terms=blue%20ridge%20mall&match=1

https://www.newspapers.com/image/686878600/?terms=blue%20ridge%20mall&match=1

https://www.newspapers.com/image/688165283/?terms=blue%20ridge%20mall&match=1

https://www.newspapers.com/image/688506083/?terms=blue%20ridge%20mall&match=1

https://www.newspapers.com/image/688599512/?terms=blue%20ridge%20mall&match=1

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Emily Cowan

Emily is a two-time published author of "Abandoned Oklahoma: Vanishing History of the Sooner State" and "Abandoned Topeka: Psychiatric Capital of the World". With over two hundred published articles on our websites. Exploring since 2018 every aspect of this has become a passion for her. From educating, fighting to preserve, writing, and learning about history there is nothing she would rather do.

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Eleanor Rieth

Its really sad that the malls lost favor. Especially after hurting the downtown areas. Now we drive from strip mall to strip mall.

Sheila Finley

Finished the year I graduated high school in Independence mo

Robin Jenks

Always shopped there as a kid

Delpha Chesnut

Wow! Lots of memories there…..

Robert Wade

It started as an open air mall. It was roofed over when enclosed malls became popular. Montgomery ward was an early anchor. They added on Penny’s and the Jones store on either end later. One of the first malls in the city.

Rosie Brooks

shopped there many times from the beginning

Carla Dickerson

I grew up not far from BRM and remember it being open. My family ate, shopped and loved going there. I bought my wedding dress at Jones Store and my bikini at Hartzfelds.

Vik Sexton

This was my mall. These pictures are heartbreaking.

Kelly E McClanahan

I remember both Blue Ridge and Bannister Malls. I think the biggest reason they died when it comes to it is demographics. At one time Blue Ridge was the place to go. Then Bannister Mall opened, and it was the place to go. As people moved further south the stores followed, and the areas around the two malls could no longer support them. Both got an undeserved representation of being rough and soon perception became reality.

Michaela Janae

There was supposed to be a Bass pro deal, but somehow that got messed up.

Kelly E McClanahan

I remember the Bass Pro deal. It was to go on the north side, where Jones Store was. They wanted Jones to move to one of the other Anchor sites but they refused and/or the funds were not available to do that. So the deal went elsewhere.

Kelly Gardner

I worked at Orange Julius. First job at 14. $1.50 an hour. Woo hoo. Then later some random places there. Fancy jean stores and an ice cream shop

Jenny King

 when I was about 5 I guess, I was there with my sister and mom. Mom was ordering some Orange Julius’ and I remember running toward my sister sitting on one of those big white plastic blocks (benches) and i tripped and fell just right to knock out my front tooth. Off to the doctor we went. I remember afterwards still wanting my Orange Julius, lol. This was back in the early to mid 70’s.

James Neal

For many years it was the cool place to be, and I’m so sad it’s gone.

Debbie Frieze Burkett

Loved my mall. We got ripped off that there is a ghetto mart there now.

Gail Rene Tesson

I remember going there before it was closed in.

Judy Grant

Went there many times. Lived near Bannister mall and it is gone too.

Chad Ganson

Only went to this mall once in my life. I remembered the parking garage and always hearing about the robberies and carjackings

Jon Owens

My dad worked at Woolworth. We’d go and have lunch at the counter.

Candie Evans Rains Smith

I remember this mall when it was an open air mall..loved this place…

Karen Logan DeMarini

So sad to see it like this.

Cathy Kemp Wade

When it was first built it was an open air mall. Was that way for years. Was fun darting between the stores when the snow was flying. Had to make our parents stand in the cold while we watched the train in the Joe Falk toy store window. the one where you pressed the red dot on the window and the train started up.

James Maddux

As a kid, growing up in a small town 60 miles northeast of KC… going to the “city”, to go to the mall, was kind of a big deal. Once I could drive and go there more often, was really cool… going to a mall to see a movie seemed very “big city” and “metropolitan” .
As an adult…. I learned that I hate shopping. I hate looking through a bunch of different stores just to find the one thing I need/want… and then trying to find the right size, color or style was very frustrating… not to mention having to park a mile away. Now, Shopping online and finding what I need quickly, easily and in the right color and style AND delivered to my door for no charge is most important.
I haven’t been to a mall in years… and, can’t imagine ever doing so in the future. For shoes and slacks, the two things that can’t be bought online because of the variation in sizes, I greatly prefer driving directly to my store of choice and walking right in and quickly grabbing what I want without the hassle of a mall.
We can wax poetically about malls of our youth…. But, reality is… with technology and new ways of shopping, malls are obsolete imho.

Sherry Miller Fry

The best mall!

Linda Deines

I loved that mall

Chris Willsey

I was living on a farm that is now Blue Springs lake, so Blue Ridge Mall was in the neighborhood. My mom used to take us there to some cafeteria to get lunch, which was the kids plate of a drum stick, mashed potatoes with gravy and a side vegetable, which if memory serves was 25 cents.

Matthew Beebe-Heinrichs

Spent alot of time there as a kid…in The Space Port…at the movie theater, lots of Orange Julius’ and Superman ice cream…cool place…

Larry McElroy

Spent many a day at this mall in my younger days. Hung out a lot at the bowling alley down below.

Brenda Nelson

I had moved away and came back and it was just gone! What a shock.

Jenny Waterfield

I was there all the time as a kid in the 80’s. I remember the movie theater being underground. Was it actually or did it just seem that way to me as a kid? It was a great place! Grew up with it and Bannister Mall! 

Legend Hasselbach

I remember a theater down the stairs. Thats where the bathrooms were located also. There was some rapes, etc happened down there. Not sure if true. Dont think theater was open at the time I remember.

Leona Joe Dekat

I remember driving way out there to see the mall being built.

Donna Stuber

There are so many cool things that could be done with these before fall into such disrepair.

Robert Taylor

I remember stopping in the Blue Ridge Makl almost everytime we came to Kansas City. I liked the Jones store that was there. Thanks for posting.

Jenny Hays Baker

I hope they donate those bikes to someone who could refurbish them and give them away to families who could use them. I can’t believe someone just left them there. They look like new except for missing pieces

Shara Clements Meyer

Always shopped at the Jones Store for school clothes at the beginning of the year

Tami Atkinson

My first job in high school was at the Blue Ridge Mall.

Lisa Richtermeyer Shemwell

This was sooooo the in place to go shopping I loved going to this mall and to have lunch near by. It was a place you could find about everything

Steve Gross

I loved the Anderson Bookstore at this mall.

Teresa DeVore

I remember (fondly) of shopping at the Blue Ridge Mall. I don’t think Walmart was an improvement on the Mall.

Don Howard

I rode my bike to the blue ridge mall. From 33rd & Arlington. As I remember the first few years it was uncovered..

Sandra Daniels Smith

Such a lovely place to meet and shop. The current location will never measure up to what we had and it should have been reimagined as a community center with shops and much more. Just take a drive up Sterling or Blue Ridge Blvd. to where it once existed and you will be saddened to see the devastation that they call this a Shopping area and the crime so bad the neighbors are fencing in their front yards too. This is the KC (East) that has been forgotten by the current city administration. We deserve more for the tax dollars we are charged. Call your city and complain. It is time to get off blaming Covid for this mess and get on with cleaning it up and get the homeless and hoodlums out of this area. If the Owners of these stores are not local then get them to a court that makes them responsible for the mess and harassment we get when we try to shop there. Covid is not to blame, society needs to speak up and get action from our local governments.

Shirlene Bryan Brokaw

These pictures make me very sad. Some of my best years and favorite memories were at the mall.

Rhonda Straw

Those pictures are sad. My mom worked at Jone’s and I went to Blue Ridge Mall a lot for everything. (The only reason I now go to Independence Center is for my glasses).

Scott Wilson

My 1st job was at this mall..
My Mom was manager of Putch’s Pub..

Philip C. Butler

Loved this place, especially Woolworth’s and the rotating cafe carousel in the down stairs area

Michelle Kellstrom Atchley

Remembering Independence Center FB page coming soon … The malls are dead. Very sad but Hello Amazon. I still miss the big malls, Blue Ridge, Banister, Metcalf and coming soon Independence & Oak Park. 

Lisa Hamlin Schanuth

Ever so often in my dreams I’m shopping and walking around this mall. I loved it ever so much. It might be gone. But no one can demolish it in my dreams.

Patti Martin Wms

This was an open mall in the beginning. My mom worked at Lerners then I worked there for the same manager when I turned 16. Used to have “fashion show” in the center at Easter and Back-to-School. Great times.

Phillip Underwood

I was there at the beginning. The people who lived back then were amazed. Big, bright and beautiful. So many spent hours of happiness at THE MALL.

Kevin Barnett

I was the GM of the theater 1993 to 1996. Theater was my fav!

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