Andrew Ellenberg, KMBZ Move Series
About 20 years ago Lowe set out to create an entrepreneurial and nimble commercial retail development company that builds shopping centers in the Midwest and Southwest. Fast forward to today and Legacy Development is now the quiet giant that is responsible for the #1 tourist attraction in the state of Kansas with nearly 15 million visitors a year.
To launch it, he joined forces with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County in 1999. The state then passed legislation and issued STAR bonds or sales tax revenue bonds based on the anticipated revenue that would be generated from the new development. As it turns out, 100 percent of sales tax revenue generated by the project was reinvested in the project, providing the capital resources needed to do amazing hardscapes and landscapes.
The development is called Legends because it honors about 100 famous Kansans throughout the project with statues, fountains and plaques. It’s an idea that has very long legs. In fact, Legacy Development is pursuing an aggressive expansion of The Legends brand in Virgin Islands, Maui, a site outside of Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard.
“In all of our projects we’re focused on delivering a unique set of retailers. So many shopping centers deliver the same retailers you see everywhere. We held out for a one of a kind tenant mix,” Lowe tells KMBZ.
As a result, about 75% of occupants had no other store within 250 miles of the project. As Lowe puts it, “We had to create an asset that gave people a reason to pass Town Center Plaza, Oak Park Mall and Country Club Plaza and come to west Wyandotte county.”
Legacy Development addresses the need for people to have meaningful experiences in their lives. Consumers don’t want to just park, transact and leave. They want an experience. “You can go to a corner café and pay 50 cents for a cup of coffee in a Styrofoam cup or go to Starbucks, get the same cup and pay $3.50 but add a fireplace, leather couch and free Wi-Fi and it becomes an experience worth paying for,” he said.
That’s the theme Legacy Development tries to implement across the board. They want to develop shopping centers that deliver more than just a shopping transaction. The Legends is one of the most notable in terms of providing an experience. Other Legacy Development projects include Liberty Commons, Olathe Station, Oak Park Crossing, Truman Marketplace and Ward Parkway Center.