by Dan Rafter
Brent Morris, associate vice president with the Kansas City office of Cassidy Turley, is optimistic about the future of this market’s retail sector.
And why not? He’s seeing plenty of new retailers moving into Kansas City. And many of the retailers already doing business here are expanding, either moving into larger locations or opening new storefronts.
“Not only are we seeing an increase in deals getting done, we are also seeing an increase in activity,” Morris said. “There were a lot of groups that had put their plans on hold. They are now looking to expand.”
There are plenty of reasons for this activity. There is pent-up demand in the Kansas City market. Many retailers had put their expansion plans on hold during the worst days of the Great Recession. They are now acting on those formerly shelved plans.
Morris, too, says that many smaller local tenants have secured financing from the federal Small Business Administration. Armed with this financing, these tenants are looking to expand, too.
Of course, there are locations in the Kansas City market that are more desirable — and attracting more retail activity — than others.
One of the prime spots for retailers looking to move up remains Country Club Plaza, the upscale shopping district and residential neighborhood in Kansas City, Mo. Morris pointed, too, to the 135th Street corridor, a busy stretch of road that is filled with retailers.
The city of Leawood, Kansas, gave the corridor a boost this summer, when city officials voted to end a 56-day moratorium on development along its portion of the 135th Street corridor. New city guidelines call for an increase in mixed-use projects along this stretch of road.
Morris also had good things to sy about Prairiefire, the new development in Overland Park, Kansas. Not only does this development feature plenty of restaurants and retailers, there’s also the Museum at Prairiefire, a smaller version of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Visitors here can also catch a movie at the high-end Cinetopia theater or eat farm-to-table food at the restaurant Vinotopia. Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of rock band Kiss fame own Rock & Brews here, while Pinstripes appeals to bowling and bocce ball fans.
“There are some really key intersections and strong trade areas in the Kansas City market,” Morris said.
This isn’t to say that retailers won’t face some challenges when coming to Kansas City. The Kansas City market is stretched out geographically. It does cross two states, after all. It can then be challenging for retailers to determine exactly which parts of the Kansas City market in which to set up shop.
“It’s not too hard to get your locations in one or two key spots. It’s not that hard to do it in three key spots. But the hard part for retailers is determining where to put spot number four and determining how that new location will impact them operations-wise,” Morris said.
Even with this challenge, though, Morris says that he expects retailers to continue to target the Kansas City market, especially now that the national economy has continued its slow but fairly steady rebound.
“The outlook is definitely positive in this market,” Morris said. “Kansas City certainly took a hit in the retail sector through 2009. But now we are seeing a lot more activity. There is a lot more interest among retailers in this market.”