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Case Studies 

Country Club Plaza

Kansas City



Contributed by 
Eric Youngberg
Project for Public Spaces
September 5, 2002
December 14, 2017

The Nation's first shopping center designed in 1922 and built by J.C. Nichols.

What makes it Great?

Why it doesn't work?

Pedestrian oriented shopping district made up of 1920's Spanish style architecture with towers, domes, iron and brick details, and public plazas filled with fountains and sculptures. It attracts 300,000 people for the lighting of the plaza Christmas lights (since 1925) on Thanksgiving Eve each year and holds an Easter parade and other public events.

Access & Linkages

Historic residential buildings are interwoven into the commercial so that it is an active and alive place. It attracts people from all walks of life. Parking is hidden under and behind buildings. The scale is definitely pedestrian. Details are exquisite! Brush Creek meanders through the Plaza with walkways on each side, with pedestrian bridges over it and tour boats along it. Transit serves the plaza, as well as the city's most prestigious boulevard, Ward Parkway (also designed and developed by JC Nichols).

Comfort & Image

Architecture, fountains, sculpture and people create Kansas City's premier urban space. People feel safe and refreshed here.

Uses & Activities

Pedestrians use sidewalks extensively. Sidewalk cafes, coffee houses, live music on various corners, plazas, and people from all walks of life abound. The adjacent Mill Creek Park along JC Nichols Parkway has become "the place" to jog, exercise, walk your dog or sun. The JC Nichols fountain is the city's "speaker's corner" with numerous political rallies and demonstrations.


The Plaza has become a tourist attraction as well as a gathering place where Kansas City residents take friends from out of town, etc. People, from homeless, art punks to Armani and Saks customers, to the city's "elite", interact here. It is the place Kansas Citians love to show off, to gather and to live, work, shop and dine.

How Light?

How Quick?

How Cheap?

History & Background

Historic residential buildings on the Plaza are currently threatened with demolition due to intense development pressure. No preservation controls exist on the Country Club Plaza. The Park Lane apartments (built in 1925 by JC Nichols and designed by the George Post Firm, who designed the Wisconsin State Capitol and the New York Stock Exchange) are currently threatened with demolition and all residents have been evicted.

Related Links & Sources

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*Please note that these Hall of Shame nominations were written in a moment in time (most over a decade ago) and likely have since changed or even been transformed. If the above entry is now great, or still not so great, go ahead and comment below on how it has evolved or nominate it as a great place.


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