Here are 2 main contenders to take Nordstrom’s spot on the plaza

Country Club Plaza expected Nordstrom to move into that location next year.  Now those plans have fizzled out.

Country Club Plaza expected Nordstrom to move into that location next year. Now those plans have fizzled out.

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Country Club Plaza and Nordstrom officially parted ways this week.

But the Plaza has at least a few suitors to fill the huge void that would become the luxury retailer’s new home in Kansas City.

The most likely competitors are a Dillard department store or a Target with apartments above, said property sources who work closely with the iconic mall.

Dillard’s appears to be the front runner, with a simpler proposal that could open in about two years. A spokeswoman for Dillard declined to comment.

But the Target proposal is more complex, calling for a multi-story building — retail below, apartments above. In a statement, Target said, “We are constantly exploring possible locations for future deals, but we have no news of new deals.”

Plaza officials said in a statement Tuesday that they and Nordstrom “mutually agreed not to proceed with the new Nordstrom business planned for the county.”

But on Wednesday, a Nordstrom spokesman announced that the deal was being terminated at the request of Taubman and Macerich, the Plaza’s owners. The Plaza had no further comment.

David M. Block of Block & Co. Inc. Realtors is a partner in the Skelly building across Jefferson Street, so he closed after the project.

“It is a pity after this long delay and anticipation of this new high-quality retail opportunity with the Plaza,” he said. “What it does opens the door to multiple considerations of other retailers or mixed-use opportunities that can strengthen the west side of the plaza. I think Dillards would be fine. I think that the property should be used for parking, at least temporarily.”

In early 2018, the Plaza announced that it would lure Nordstrom away from Oak Park Mall, its rival in Overland Park. The new 122,000-square-foot store would anchor the west side of the plaza and revitalize the iconic center, which currently has about two dozen empty storefronts.

The Capital Grille and Bank of America have moved. These buildings, along with another restaurant area and some movie screens, were demolished more than two years ago to make way for the store at 4720 Jefferson Street.

But the opening date has been pushed back twice during the pandemic — first to 2022, then to fall 2023.

Now the west side is a fenced off muddy area overlooking several empty restaurants and a former movie theater.

Some Plaza fans previously said they wouldn’t stop until they saw construction cranes for Nordstrom. They were right to be concerned.

Now, they fear that without Nordstrom, the site will become another Mission Mall whose redevelopment plans have been delayed by years.

“We’ve dealt with a lot of things over the last three years — the demolition of the buildings, the rubble, the construction mess — hoping that this retail destination would come,” said Chris Ridler, co-owner of Zócalo Mexican Cuisine & Tequileria, the is opposite the website. “While I am confident that Taubman will make the best decision, there will be questions about the viability of retail on the west side of the plaza for the next two or three years.”

With the announcement that Nordstrom would not be coming to the Plaza, readers took to Twitter and Facebook to express their frustration:

“Nordstrom should need to restore the damaged area. They realigned Jefferson, demolishing parking lots and businesses. It’s a total wreck.”

“It’s so sad. They tore down the whole building and now we’re left with a crude concrete garage and bare land. What an eyesore.”

“Hey @ Nordstrom Screw yourself for destroying buildings, promising jobs, and walking away without accountability.”

“The ironic part here is that you’ll probably come back with a Pinstripes, Main Event, Chicken N Pickle place with something above or below this space…I don’t know, maybe a…movie theater!”

“Thanks for tearing down the only movie theater in Midtown in the process.”

“Nordstrom should need to restore the damaged area. They realigned Jefferson, demolishing parking lots and businesses. It’s a total wreck.”

Matt Pennington, president of Drake Development, which is rehabilitating the former Jack Henry building nearby, said there was no doubt the Plaza area needed more housing. But he questioned signing another department store tenant as a “quick fix.”

“Nordstrom was kind of their unicorn,” he said. “There aren’t many department stores out there that are doing well. This model is dying across the country and it doesn’t seem to be a good fit for the Plaza’s long-term sustainability.”

Pennington said the next decisions the Plaza makes will impact how the neighborhood will be perceived by future generations.

“If they make a bad decision here to re-educate an entire generation that it’s great, then good luck,” Pennington said. “It needs to have unique offerings and it needs to change.”

Robert Martin, president of the nearby Plaza Westport Neighborhood Association, said the plaza’s current vacancies are not a cause for concern as malls across the country face the same twin problems of the pandemic and e-commerce.

“But it calls us to attract and build really good retail tenants and also commercial businesses,” he said. “Having more offices on the plaza, more apartments on the plaza would all be a good thing to support retail and entertainment there.”

Duke Tufty, CEO of Unity Temple in the plaza adjacent to the site, said his biggest concern right now is the “unkempt vacant lot with trash, empty liquor bottles and kids partying there again.”

At least until a new tenant signs it, he wants to turn it into a green space.

“At some point, the Plaza has to stand up and take responsibility,” Tufty said. “If I have to go out and plant some grass myself, I’ll do that one evening and see how it goes.”

But Block, like many Plaza fans, wants to see the west side with a strong anchor tenant.

“I think at the end of the day everyone wants to see positive development on this property and something that will further solidify the Plaza’s appeal going forward,” he said. “I hOpe it all gets done sooner rather than later. We’ve all waited long enough.”

Includes coverage from The Star’s Kevin Hardy.

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Joyce Smith has covered restaurant and retail news for The Star since 1989 under the Cityscape brand. She appreciates news tips.

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