The Kansas City Star reported this week that a large section of the Brookside shops have been sold to an out of state company. The area includes the commercial strip of the north side of 63rd St from Wornall to Brookside Blvd, plus Cosentino’s Market and other nearby locally owned businesses. My first reaction to the news was ‘oh no, there goes the neighborhood’.
I’ve lived in Kansas City long enough to see how the Country Club Plaza has changed since Highwoods Properties purchased it several years ago. There aren’t as many locally owned places as there once were, and the majority of the establishments are the same national chain retail and restaurants you find in just about every shopping mall. The Plaza is still a huge draw for tourists and residents, and Highwoods has done a good job maintaining the original charming architecture, beautiful landscaping and popular events such as the Plaza Art Fair. I enjoy walking around and shopping there. So what changes can we expect when Washington Realty Inc, based in Bethesda MD, owns a majority of the prime real estate in Brookside? No one knows, as the company is not commenting.
For now, George Gilchrist of BKS Real Estate will continue to manage the properties for Washington Realty. When I was shopping in Brookside yesterday, I asked Casey Simmons, co-owner of Stuff if she had any comments about the sale. She said when she and her sister moved Stuff to Brookside from Westport, their building was owned by (North Carolina based) Highwoods Properties. There may be some changes several months from now; eventually management may be switched to the Bethesda location and rents/lease terms could be altered. Like everyone else, she found out about the pending sale by reading it in a news report. She invited me to ‘come back in a year’ and ask then how things have changed under the new owners. Looking at the Washington Realty website, you see a list of the places they own properties, but you can’t tell if there is a mix of smaller, local businesses with the larger chain stores.
I’m going to be optimistic and believe that the new owners won’t eventually kick out the locals and bring in generic businesses. Brookside has succeeded and thrived for years specifically because of the unique, locally based shops and restaurants and popular, family oriented, community events. Isn’t that what attracted the out of town buyers in the first place?