Ray Washburne pouring $275M into Kansas City shopping center

Highland Park Village owner positioning Country Club Plaza for luxury tenants

Dallas Developer Pouring $275M Into Kansas City Shopping Center
Ray Washburne of HP Village Associates with Country Club Plaza in Kansas City (Country Club Plaza, SMU.edu)

A Texas developer is digging deep into its pockets to transform one of America’s oldest shopping centers.

Ray Washburne’s HP Village Associates has purchased the 1 million-square-foot Country Club Plaza in Kansas City for $175 million, with plans to invest an additional $100 million on redevelopment, the Wall Street Journal reported

The sale price is significantly lower than the $660 million paid by previous owners Macerich and Taubman Centers in 2016. They defaulted on a $295 million loan last year, causing vacancy in nearly 25 percent of the retail space due to underinvestment and increased competition.

“I’ve never seen this many empty stores,” Michael Naumov, whose family has run Larissa’s Plaza Tailor Shop in the shopping center since 2001, told the outlet. “We’re all hoping that they will bring some of the nicer stores in here.” 

Washburne believes that even historic retail properties can be revitalized if well-located and capable of attracting affluent shoppers. Country Club Plaza, built in 1923, is strategically positioned near several affluent Kansas City neighborhoods and draws customers from cities like Omaha, Tulsa and St. Louis.

Washburne aims to revive the shopping center with a mix of luxury stores and high-end restaurants helmed by local chefs. He anticipates attracting high-end fashion brands such as Dior and Hermès. 

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The shopping center houses a few luxury tenants, including Tiffany and Swarovski, but it’s predominantly occupied by mid-priced retailers such as H&M, Old Navy and Pandora. Discussions with various luxury brands have been promising, with many showing interest in joining the shopping center, contingent on proposed improvements. 

U.S. luxury retail sales have surged since the onset of the pandemic, reaching an estimated $75 billion in 2023, the outlet reported, citing JLL. The luxury retail sector has been less impacted by the increase of online shopping since the pandemic, as customers often prefer in-person experiences for high-value purchases.

In addition to luxury retail, Washburne stressed the importance of luring local high-end restaurants to drive foot traffic. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas recalled that Country Club Plaza was a premier dining destination in the 1980s and ’90s, before downtown development steered creative entrepreneurs away.

The Country Club Plaza overhaul isn’t Washburne’s first venture into historic shopping centers. In 2009, his company invested $170 million in Highland Park Village in Dallas, which opened in 1931 and boasts numerous luxury tenants. The company also owns luxury properties in Charlotte and Aspen, Colorado. 

The Washburne family has deep ties to Kansas City. Washburne’s wife, Heather Hill Washburne, and her sister, Elisa Summers, are cousins of Clark Hunt, CEO of the Kansas City Chiefs, who is a partner in the purchase of Country Club Plaza. 

—Quinn Donoghue 

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