New owners for Topeka’s West Ridge Mall

Topeka’s West Ridge Mall has new owners and a new plan for the future.
Published: Sep. 8, 2023 at 3:26 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Topeka’s West Ridge Mall has new owners and a new plan for the future.

Advisors Excel co-founders Cody Foster and David Callanan announced Friday they finalized the purchase agreement for the property. The mall is on SW Wanamaker Rd., stretching between SW 17th and SW 21st streets.

Foster and Callanan say they plan to convert a portion of the space for corporate offices, serving as Advisors Excel headquarters. The remainder will be used for retail tenants.

“I know there are a lot of people that have come to me over the years and wanted to know what I did with my lease and they have been hesitant because the owners are not local and so I think people will start coming out of the woodwork and coming back to the mall once these owners take over,” says Petland Owner, Staci Williams.

“This is a great opportunity for us to, first and foremost, create a space for our team that will help us better serve our financial advisors and, second, improve a retail and entertainment space in our community that will benefit everyone, from tenants to shoppers,” Foster said. “We think West Ridge Mall can once again become a shopping, dining, and entertainment destination.”

Foster and Callanan say the immediate task will be to evaluate the building, and prioritize repairs and improvements. They then plan to aggressively secure new tenants for open storefronts.

“Malls are like families the employees of the mall all know each other everybody knows everybody so it is a community thing and getting community events back here and that we had the weenie dog races every year and that brings people from Hayes and all over and so it’s just giving back to the community. The more stores that are in here the more restaurants that gives Topekans more options and so that’s going to be key,” says Williams.

“This development couldn’t be better news for Topeka, and it hits at the right time,” Greater Topeka Partnership CEO Matt Pivarnik said. “Westridge Mall is a critical community asset to a major retail corridor and our capital city region. Having local ownership is comforting as we know the property is in good hands and with visionary leadership.”

West Ridge Mall opened in 1988, developed by Simon Properties. Anchor stores included JCPenney and Dillards, which remain in operation, along with Sears and The Jones Store (later Macy’s). A movie theatre also operated inside the mall.

Simon sold its mall properties to Washington Prime Group in 2014. By February 2019, Washington Prime said it owed $40 million on the property, and planned to let its lender take control. Wells Fargo Bank bought the mall at sheriff’s auction later that year.

New ownership came on board in January 2022 in the form of Long Island-based Kohan Retail Investment Group. At the time, CEO Mike Kohan told 13 NEWS he wanted to reconnect the Topeka community with West Ridge Mall. He said he was reaching out to restaurant and food vendors and local merchants about entertainment and activity-based opportunities. However, it appeared little materialized from those talks.

Tenants say they are excited to be under local owners for the first time in years. “When somebody is a long ways a way it’s not their fault but they’re not that engaged and they’re not as involved so they don’t really care if it is sort of dwindling. They don’t really care if there is a new restaurant in town and so with local owners I think the caring apect of it is going to be so different than anything else that we’ve had in the last 10 years,” says Williams.

Currently, JCPenney, Dillards, Furniture Mall of Kansas, Petland and SkyZone are the mall’s major tenants, with few others operating inside the building. Former mall tenants such as Bath and Body Works and Old Navy moved to a redeveloped retail plaza across the street.

Kohan Retail Investment Group also owns Towne West Square in Wichita. Our sister station KWCH reports Evergy shut off power to Towne West on Friday due to a delinquent bill.