New Plaza Owners and Mayor Discuss Security, Additions, and Infrastructure

Stephen Summers, Ray W. Washburne, and Mayor Quinton Lucas announce the sale of the Plaza.
(From left) Stephen Summers, Ray W. Washburne, and Mayor Quinton Lucas announce the sale of the Plaza. Photo by Evan Pagano

Country Club Plaza’s new owners discussed their plans for the Plaza at a press conference Monday. 

The two men—Ray W. Washburne and Stephen Summers of Dallas-based HP Village Management—were joined by Mayor Quinton Lucas. They focused on three aspects of the Plaza’s future: security, additions, and infrastructure.

Washburne, the president of HP Village Management, spoke at length about upping security measures. Security was “a big issue” during the sales process, Washburne said, with multiple crimes occurring on the Plaza even after his company had committed to buying. But he determined that the company could overcome that with a focus on getting “eyes on the property.”

Washburne said the company will install 100-150 security cameras to monitor the scene and read license plates. He also said the Plaza will have a “constant presence of security on the streets, walking a beat on the sidewalks.”

Lucas said he wants to work with the Kansas City Police Department and the Board of Police Commissioners “to make sure we have a fantastic partnership between private security at the Plaza and also law enforcement.”

The flashier parts of the conference involved new and returning businesses. Washburne said he plans to bring in local tenants; Summers will lead the leasing efforts, and he asked for local business recommendations during and after the press conference.

“We’re going to be very encouraging to Stephen and his team [to want to look] and find the best local retailers to bring in here,” said Washburne, “because what makes this a successful center isn’t national retailers, it’s the local retail scene as well as the local food and beverage scene.”

At different points in the morning, all three men stressed the importance of bringing in local cuisine. The names that stirred the room most, however, were out-of-town restaurants that once had homes on the Plaza: Houston’s (owned by Hillstone Restaurant Group) and Mi Cocina.

Summers said that security was “items one, two, and three” on the list of concerns locals brought up about the Plaza; later, he joked “security one, two, three—Hillstone four, Hillstone five.”

Houston’s served its American fare at 4640 Wornall Road for two decades before boarding up in 2017. Many of Hillstone Restaurant Group’s restaurants share menu items, and Summers says they’re a “massive” target of his for the Plaza.

“The menu items if you go to East Hampton Grill versus Hillstone versus Houston’s, like, the French dip is on most of them. I’d prefer they brought back Houston’s.”

As for Mi Cocina: Washburne co-owns M Crowd Restaurant Group, which owns Mi Cocina. The Tex-Mex chain, known for its Mambo Taxi mixed drink, operated at the corner of West 48th and Jefferson from 1998 to 2008. Today, that space is unoccupied. One of the first announcements Washburne made was that he intends to bring Mi Cocina back—“once we get sewers that work.”

The other focus was on just that: the aging infrastructure of the century-old plaza.

“When you have a million square feet and a 100-year old property on 15 city blocks, you’re going to find a lot of issues,” Rayburne said. He said his company and the city will spend a combined $100 million on improvements, with his company focusing on “interiors and buildout” of the retail spaces and the city focusing on public streets and infrastructure.

“We recognize that there are infrastructure needs, sewer and water in particular, that we need to do substantially here in the Country Club Plaza area,” said Mayor Lucas. “I would expect that cost to exceed the tens of millions of dollars—in that range.”

Ursula Terrasi of Terrasi Living & Scandia Homes has run her business in the Plaza for 21 years. On Monday, when several inches of rain fell on Kansas City, her staff went to the basement to put the merchandise as high as possible. 

But Terrasi loves the Plaza—loves the old architecture, loves that it’s a destination for locals and out-of-towners. And though she hasn’t spoken to the new owners, she’s encouraged by their words about nurturing local businesses. She says some of those will need to be practical.

“We talked about having a small grocery store, or those kinds of things. Because people will come and visit and there’s not a laundry shop or a good, old drugstore. It sounds practical, but I think it needs to be more like a village on the Plaza. … There’s all kinds of opportunities for different kinds of businesses that can serve those that are here.”

Washburne said bringing a small grocery store to the Plaza is a priority. After the press conference, Mayor Lucas also spoke about the need for practical businesses.

“First of all, I think we need to make sure that we talk about more residential offerings, not just around the Plaza, but even within the traditional Plaza footprint,” he says. “… So for me, it’s not just a restaurant, it’s more that activity that I knew when I was a kid getting my braces put on [in the Plaza]. So that means even bringing back some other areas—medical offices, some of the other things we’ve seen decline a lot.”