Shopping Centers Today

MAR 2017

Shopping Centers Today is the news magazine of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)

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Page 15 of 59

16 S C T / M A R C H 2 0 1 7 C O M M U N I T Y T H E C O M M O N A R E A Making memories P rom night has been a high school tradition and a highlight for generations of American teenagers. And for nearly three decades now, one mall in the Flint Hills section of Kansas has been helping to make this life event even more special still. This year Manhattan Town Center is poised to do that yet again. The 380,000-square- foot mall, operated by ICSC member Principal Real Estate Investors and managed by CBRE, is located in the heart of downtown Manhattan, Kan. In 1987, when the mall opened, the local high school happened to be in need of a facility for the prom. With an enrollment of some 1,700 students, Manhattan High School is one of the largest schools in the state, but its gym- nasium was too small for the annual event. Other venues, meanwhile, were too costly or else were otherwise un- suitable, so Manhattan Town Center's willingness to step up was a gift from heaven. The mall has been housing the event free of charge, requiring only insurance, plus a $500 deposit that gets refunded after the night is over. It may surprise no one that support- ing the local prom in this way is a big part of the goodwill this mall fosters and enjoys within the community. To be sure, Manhattan Town Center has special significance for Gina Scroggs, who attended prom there as a senior in 1988. Today she is executive direc- tor of Downtown Manhattan, Inc., a public-private agency that promotes the town center. "There was so much excitement and buzz after having gone all the tenants turn out their lights, and the mall is turned over to the nearly 600 MHS students who proceed to dance the night away. The prom-goers receive a red-carpet welcome at the mall plaza entrance, and friends, family and other community members gather to watch as each couple is introduced before going inside. "I think it all plays into the decision 35 years ago to keep downtown vi- brant and prevent urban sprawl," said Scroggs. "The mall anchors downtown, so the mall is part of the downtown community, which is the heart of the city. It feels very appropriate to me that an important event in a local teenager's life should be held there." Scroggs attended the prom for her daughter, Cassidy, of the class of 2012. "They've certainly come a long way as far as decorating," Scroggs said. "My experience from when Cassidy went is that you didn't feel so much like you were in the mall — it absolutely has the ele- ment of what I think a full prom experience should be." The theme of the very first prom ever held at the mall, on May 7, 1988, was "Forever," and date photos were taken in front of the Center Court fountain. That night a Kansas City–area rock band called Satin Rage blasted the likes of Belinda Carlisle and Guns N' Roses from a lighted stage. But it is noteworthy that the local teens are not the only ones continuing to enjoy the mall's community-minded services. For 20 years now, a "senior" prom, of sorts, is held there the very day after the high school event. At this prom, adults over 50 benefit from the decorations the kids have left in place. n through years of finally getting a mall and putting it in downtown," Scroggs said. "Everybody is connected to it." Heather Riley Landsdowne thinks so too. A 1989 MHS graduate, she was part of the junior class that brought the prom to the mall. "I'm pleased the high school has stuck to this tradition," Landsdowne said. "It's always one of the things I look at when I talk to people about how our mall is not just a shopping center but [also] a commu- nity center." In fact, the whole thing is quite the family affair at her house, as Landsdowne married her senior prom date, Bill, and now their children — Emma, a junior, and Max, a sophomore Kansas mall has hosted the local prom 30 times By Jeff Sutton — are looking forward to attending their own proms at the mall. "For Bill and I to have gone to prom together, it will be neat to see our kids there." Every year parents and students be- gin meeting in January with mall staff, school district officials, and security and law-enforcement personnel to plan the event and pick a theme. The deco- rating committee organizes for setup the week leading up to the prom, and when the day arrives, the mall is full of decorations. The MHS football team brings in bleachers loaned by the city. As soon as the mall closes that evening,

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