Demolition of Bannister Mall begins

The redevelopment of Bannister Mall got off the drawing board and into the demolition stage today.

Excavators started taking down the former Jones Store and will begin moving south over the next year, tearing down the mall to make way for a $949 million mixed-used center called The Trails.

The 467-acre development would be anchored by an 18,500 seat professional soccer stadium that would house The Wizards, Kansas City’s major league soccer team.

Eventually it would add a 12-field tournament soccer complex for local, regional and national tournaments, a 250-room hotel, up to 1.1 million square feet of retail and up to 1.7 million square feet of office space.

Area residents who showed up at the Bannister Mall site Wednesday were thrilled.

Standing in the parking lot with the demolition crew, well, I had a flashback to 1980.

I was with the electrical crew then. I had just moved to the city to attend UMKC and my big brother knew a worker who gave us a sneak peak of the spanking new center at Interstate 435 and Bannister Road.

Its sheer size - more than double, maybe triple my hometown mall - the skylights, the sculptures, the landscaping, the big name stores set to open - this was going to be life in the big city.

And when it opened in August of that year it was the place to be for many in the city.

Area high school students considered it 'their' mall and many still do. As young parents they shopped there as families.

After I became retail reporter for the Star most of my excursions there were to cover openings, and then more and more often closings.

The big names left, then the small locally owned stores.

Guard towers were constructed to make people feel safer. It didn't work.

But the only time I was actually worried was when I realized I was in a whole wing of the mall that was empty of people and stores.

Since Bannister Mall closed in June 2007 vandals had moved in to 'help' with the demolition by breaking out all the windows and taking everything not nailed down - and then some.

So it was sort of bittersweet to see that once beautiful mall become rubbish (rubbish that will be recycled).

But here's hoping the developers can pull this project off and give south Kansas City residents another awe inspiring gathering place they can be proud of and call their own.