Rapid and sharp changes in the demand for commercial space are unlikely to slow, some area real-estate experts say.

Jim Harpool of Evergreen Real Estate Services – and well known for developing the retail area on Jackson Drive in Independence that includes Terra, Half Price Books, and Bed, Bath and Beyond – put it this way. Think of how much such things as hospitality, retailing, office space needs and the functioning of medical offices have changed in recent years.

“I don’t know of a city in the metro area that is adapting as fast as the market is changing. … And I think that’s really the challenge for all of us,” Harpool said last week at a breakfast meeting of the Independence Economic Development Council.

“How fast can we be creative?” he asked. “And how fast can we get the cities on board?”

Bill Maas of Block and Company said malls are making the shift away from big-box retailers and toward more experiential offerings such as entertainment and fine dining.

“It’s a fragmented market that’s trying to adjust” to new directions, he said.

The bad news about malls – and Kansas City is down to just two, including Independence Center – has been overblown, Maas said, though the reality is that mall vacancies are down, sales are up and rents are up.

“You would think it’s nothing but doom and gloom,” he said.

Vacated big-box space – a problem Independence Center hasn’t had yet – is being backfilled with “21st century users going in.”

Maas also said other retail hotspots are doing well.

“Right here locally, you’ll still see a lot of growth. Adams Dairy is just blowing up,” he said, referring to the area in Blue Springs anchored by Target, Walmart and others and where new shops keep popping up.

Harpool also had a thought on the idea that Independence is hoping will have tremendous growth in the years ahead, the Little Blue River valley. He agreed that the potential is there.

“Somehow,” he said, “you have to figure out how to get momentum going.”


-- Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s business editor and reporter. Reach him at 816-350-6313 or jeff.fox@examiner.net. He’s on Twitter @FoxEJC.