Highwoods Properties selling Country Club Plaza - KCTV5

Highwoods Properties selling Country Club Plaza

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

There is now a for sale sign outside the Country Club Plaza.

Highwoods Properties, the owner of Kansas City's iconic shopping and entertainment district, is selling the Plaza in order to pay for the purchase of an office complex in a posh area of Atlanta and a skyscraper in Tampa, FL.

In a news release, Highwoods said it plans to sell the Plaza no later than early next year.

Highwoods has owned the Plaza since 1989. It has faced criticism for raising rents and driving out local businesses while bringing in chains.

In recent years, the Plaza has struggled with hordes of young people swarming the streets and the area outside the movie theater on weekend nights and during the summer months.

The city passed a curfew as a result of brawls, fights and shootings but the brutal beating of an Army captain earlier this month outside a Mexican restaurant by a group of young men has made some patrons again uncomfortable about venturing to the shopping district at night.

For others, it is the place to eat and shop in the Kansas City area. The Spanish-theme outdoor shopping center was revolutionary when it opened in 1923.

"Change is inevitable. However when there is something so special you want to try to preserve it as much as possible," said Plaza shopper Gregg Campbell said. "I have concerns that it is not going to be what it once was."

Some shoppers like Michelle Bruce hope that the new owner will more effectively deal with the problems from youth.

“I hope that whoever buys this has a long-term commitment to the community, to the architecture of the Plaza but also the atmosphere of the Plaza," said shopper Christy Howard.

Highwoods is buying Monarch Centre in Atlanta for $303 million and SunTrust Financial Centre in Florida for $124 million.

Ed Fritsch, president and CEO for Highwoods, said the purchases will "strengthen our franchise of owning high-quality, trophy office buildings." The office buildings are expected to generate more income for the company than the Plaza does currently.

The Plaza is the only retail-oriented property that Highwoods now owns. The company focuses on business parks and office space.

The Plaza is a 15-block area with retail stores, restaurants, a movie theater, offices and other entertainment venues. It has more than 800,000 square feet of retail space and more than 600,000 square feet of office space. Almost 95 percent of the space is leased out.

Highwoods has had its hurdles since purchasing the property.

The Polsinelli Law Firm chose to build just outside the property's limits several years ago over height restrictions and public outcry over architectural conflicts with its proposal to build on the Plaza.

Just this month, a lawyer representing Highwoods expressed concern about a comprehensive  Midtown/Plaza Area Plan headed to city council after passing committee earlier this month. He feared it would be too restrictive if passed as written.

But Highwoods says that has nothing to do with the decision.

Click here to read the news release from Highwoods.

Mayor Sly James issued the following statement:

"Highwoods Properties has been a partner with the city in many respects. As a former business owner myself, I understand the need to make decisions that account for developing business opportunities and trends. As mayor, I believe the Plaza always has been a focal point of civic pride, and I don't expect that to change with ownership," he said.

Copyright 2015 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved

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