Crown Center Mall and Neighborhood – Historic Gem in Kansas City, MO

A Brief History

Crown Center, a shopping center and neighborhood located near Downtown Kansas City, Missouri, boasts a rich history that dates back to the early 20th century. Once part of the bustling Union Hill historic neighborhood, the area fell into disrepair during the Second World War, with old warehouses, used car lots, and vacant buildings dominating the landscape.

In 1966, Donald J. Hall, Sr. took over as President and CEO of Hallmark Cards and began acquiring the property surrounding its headquarters to transform the area into a “city within a city.” The City of Kansas City approved plans for Crown Center by the end of 1967, and the ground was broken for the complex in September 1968.

Over the years, the shopping center has undergone numerous changes and additions, with its current state offering a vibrant mix of residences, retail establishments, entertainment venues, and restaurants.

Memorable Architecture and Design

Crown Center‘s architecture and design feature the work of several renowned architects and designers, such as:

  • Edward Larrabee Barnes, who prepared the master design for the complex
  • Harry Weese, who designed the hotel in the Brutalist style
  • Norman Fletcher, who created the first residences
  • Henry Cobb, who designed the 2600 Grand office
  • Dan Kiley, who laid out the park in the south area of the complex
  • Warren Plattner, who created the interior space at the American Restaurant

These architectural masterpieces have played a significant role in shaping the Crown Center’s identity and have contributed to its ongoing appeal.

A Timeline of Crown Center’s Evolution

To better understand Crown Center’s journey, let’s take a look at the key milestones in its evolution:

  • 1967: The City of Kansas City approves plans for Crown Center
  • 1968: Ground is broken for the complex
  • 1971: Construction begins on the hotel, designed by Harry Weese
  • 1973: The hotel opens as the Crown Center Hotel, managed by Western International Hotels
  • 1980: The Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center opens as the Hyatt Regency Kansas City
  • 1981: Western International Hotels rebrands as Westin Hotels and the hotel is renamed The Westin Crown Center
  • 2016: The American Restaurant announces plans to close and become a unique event venue primarily

Location Highlights

Today, Crown Center is a hub of activity, with three levels of shops and restaurants, an ice skating rink, live theaters, and over-street walkways connecting the complex to Kansas City’s Union Station. In addition, the Halls department store, designed by Paul László, also anchors the shopping center.

The Crown Center complex also includes:

  • When built, the 45-story Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center held the distinction of being Missouri’s tallest building.
  • Two upscale residential apartment skyscrapers.
  • A Westin hotel.

Kansas City’s three most prominent law firms maintain their offices in other skyscrapers in the neighborhood. On the other hand, Hallmark Cards’ global headquarters can be found on the eastern side of Crown Center.

Outdoor Spaces and Art

The neighborhood’s grounds feature parks, fountains, green spaces, and unique sculptures, inviting visitors and residents to enjoy the outdoors and the area’s artistic offerings.

The centerpiece of Crown Center’s outdoor space is the grand open-air fountains, which provide a spectacular visual display and create a relaxing atmosphere for visitors.

Throughout the year, Crown Center hosts various events and activities in its outdoor spaces, such as concerts, art fairs, and holiday celebrations, further enhancing the community’s appeal and engagement.

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The Mayor’s Christmas Tree

A time-honored tradition dating back a century, Hallmark Cards’ Crown Center is adorned with a 100-foot tall Mayor’s Christmas tree during the winter holidays, decorated with over 7,200 twinkling white lights.

Towering above its counterparts, this tree surpasses the height of the National Christmas Tree, Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, and the White House Christmas Tree. A celebrity or special guest is invited to “flip the switch” and illuminate the tree each year.

The lighting ceremony occurs the day following Thanksgiving, after the annual Country Club Plaza Lighting Ceremony. Once the holiday season ends, the tree is transformed into commemorative ornaments and sold, with proceeds going toward the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund, which supports underprivileged city residents.

Crown Center’s Impact on Kansas City

Crown Center‘s development and ongoing success have significantly impacted the revitalization of Downtown Kansas City. The shopping center and neighborhood have become a symbol of urban renewal and have played a crucial role in attracting new businesses, residents, and visitors to the area.

Furthermore, Crown Center’s emphasis on community involvement and support for local arts and culture has contributed to Kansas City’s reputation as a vibrant, thriving city. As a result, the area has seen a resurgence of interest and investment, which has led to additional developments and attractions in the city.

In Summary

Crown Center, a shopping center and neighborhood near Downtown Kansas City, offers a unique blend of history, architecture, shopping, dining, and entertainment. With its rich past and vibrant present, it remains a beloved destination for locals and visitors alike.

The shopping center’s evolution and continued success have profoundly impacted the revitalization of Kansas City, attracting new businesses, residents, and visitors and contributing to the city’s reputation as a thriving, vibrant community.

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