Mall owner says company is exploring options to ‘to transform Oak Park’ after news of Nordstrom departure

Nordstrom will be leaving Oak Park Mall for the Plaza in 2021. Photo credit Mike Kalasnik.

The owners of Oak Park Mall say they have already begun exploring options for the space occupied by Nordstrom after the announcement Friday that the company would be leaving Overland Park in favor of a space on the Country Club Plaza.

CBL & Associates Properties, Inc., the Tennessee-based company that owns Oak Park, issued a statement over the weekend indicating that it would consider alternative uses for the Nordstrom space:

Nordstrom has been an important part of Oak Park over the years, but we are excited about the opportunity to recapture this prime real estate for future redevelopment. The retail environment is changing rapidly and this decision provides us with an excellent opportunity to transform Oak Park for even greater success in the future. Nordstrom will remain at Oak Park until 2021. Between now and then, our team has ample time to evaluate various redevelopment scenarios in order to create the plan that makes the most sense for the market.

Oak Park has three other department store tenants currently operating inside the mall: Dillard’s, which has space on both the north and south end of the center, JCPenney, which anchors the west end, and Macy’s, which anchors the east end. But Nordstrom is a key differentiator for Oak Park, as the Seattle-based retailer’s only location in the metro area. That exclusivity factored into the company’s recent marketing of the property.

“Oak Park Mall is a more than 1.5 million square-foot, high performing shopping destination featuring five department stores including the area’s only Nordstrom,” read a leasing spec sheet about the property issued by CBL last year.

The announcement of Nordstrom’s departure had some Overland Park residents predicting that the mall may be entering a period of decline, like what preceded the eventual closure of Metcalf South a few years ago. But the “retail apocalypse” trend that shopping centers across the country have seen as online retail sales have grown hasn’t hit the northern Johnson County area particularly hard. LANE4 Property Group’s annual retail report, which looks at leasing trends across the metro area, found that northern Johnson County shopping centers saw occupancy rates increase from 2016 to 2017, jumping from 91.4 percent to 94 percent.

“North Johnson County retail continues to thrive due to dense neighborhoods, great schools, and strong household incomes,” reads the 2018 report. “Many of the major retail destinations are laden with local destination shops and restaurants, helping them to avoid the retail “apocalypse.”

Still there are a number of people suggesting that indoor malls like Oak Park may be losing their appeal: