In this season, partly dedicated to consumerism, I’m posting this photograph I took this past January of the Country Club Plaza Shopping Center, one of Kansas City’s notable areas.
The Country Club Plaza was the first shopping center in the world designed to accommodate shoppers arriving by automobile. J.C. Nichols, a residential developer of nearby upscale homes, designed the shopping center after European styles, especially those of Seville, Spain. More than thirty statues, murals, and tile mosaics adorn the Plaza, as well as major architectural reproductions, such as a half-sized Giralda Tower of Seville (the tallest building in the Plaza).
Even though the Country Club Plaza was designed for automobiles, once you arrive you really need to park your car in one of the garages and walk from store to store. Pedestrians rule on the Plaza. Thousands of people live in condominiums and apartments nearby, and the Plaza is always teeming with activity. I drive by a lot, because my mother-in-law lives nearby, and it’s also on the way to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. I’m not a shopper, though, so I seldom join the throngs, except to go to some of the great restaurants. A quaint restaurant on the Plaza with fantastic vegetarian food is Eden Alley, which is in the lower level of the Unity Temple. It also has a great people-watching patio outside.
The trend in Kansas City now and elsewhere is to look toward another European design, and that’s mixed use –Situating housing areas, restaurants and stores in the same area, so that you can easily walk to a store or restaurant from your home.