The mall suffers a slow death. Meanwhile, Clay Chastain hijacks talk of light rail.

Goodbye, Fair Mall 

The mall suffers a slow death. Meanwhile, Clay Chastain hijacks talk of light rail.

There was a time, believe it or not, when the opening of Mission Mall — sorry, Mission Center — was a big deal. This was before we drove north to Zona Rosa or west for Nebraska Furniture Mart. In fact, this was before we drove at all.

Even though we don't go to malls with a gaggle of girlfriends in tow anymore, we've still been bummed out by the slow demise of Mission Center. First, we got calls last fall from a friend who scored 75 percent off bedding as Dillard's closed its doors. In December, we went in for a manicure at one of the remaining businesses. That's when it sank in: There was nothing left in this joint.

At some point, with little fanfare, the mall shut its doors. Then it sat empty, a reminder to those who passed by that even if you're shiny and new one day, you're as outdated as a 5-gigabyte iPod the next.

We started noticing its slow destruction at the end of July, when graffiti taggers left marks on one side. Then workers slowly took down the Dillard's at the western end of the mall. Suddenly, it was like the side of a dollhouse — except we were peering into nothingness.

From that point on, we changed our route home from work so that we could note what remained. We wanted explosives, wrecking balls — something flashy. Instead, it began slowly, with oddly shaped chunks going missing in sloppy slow motion, as if someone were using a crowbar. Or was it some kind of revenge from former mall rats lamenting the demise of the place?

After days of nothing, one side came down. The pile stretched. Coyote Grill disappeared. One of the Mission Center signs, with its distinctive totally cool-in-the-'80s typeface, landed on a flatbed trailer. For what, we wondered — so it could be sold on eBay? Another Mission Center sign was reduced to "ission Center."

Finally, we saw last week that crews had leveled the facade. The chain-link fence guarding the remains shows signs of assault from thrill seekers, but westbound traffic on Shawnee Mission Parkway now has an unobstructed view of the quaint Mission that the city's government wants to leave behind.

Tied to the Rails

Clay Chastain is again trying to convince voters to pay for a commuter train and gondola system. The hotheaded Tennessean even left a message at the Pitch. So we called him back, but as usual with Chastain, things quickly boiled over.

The Pitch: I wanted to ask you about the latest petit —

Chastain: Yeah, let me interrupt you for just a second. I don't know exactly what you have in mind, but I'm not interested in a superficial interview, especially in one that focuses on Clay Chastain. I'm an easy target, obviously. If you want to marginalize the issue and ask all kinds of personal questions, about why I don't live here and all that sort of thing, I'm not really all that interested in that. I'm interested in this issue and how it can help this city and make it a better place to live.... I want to know where you're coming from and whether you'll be frank, forthright and honest with me.

Well, the point of this is to talk about you. To be forthright — it's impossible at this point to separate the two issues.

Well, you still haven't answered my question. Do you want to talk predominantly about this issue, the light-rail issue, or do you want to talk predominantly about me?

This wouldn't be a piece about the pros and cons of light rail and the ins and outs of light rail. People have read that ad nauseam at this point.

No, they haven't read it ad nauseam. There hasn't been anything really in the media about the proposal, about where it's going. This is new light-rail technology and, if it passes, this would be the first light-rail system of this kind in the United States. I know this issue has been worn out. I understand that. But this is a different time in the United States and a different day than it was the last time I did this.

Well, let me ask you this question —

I don't want to get sucked into this thing ... I don't want this to be another, oh, this is another thing he's done, and another thing about Clay's ego, and his need to do this and that. Why does he keep coming back? I'm just not interested in that at all. I'm not going to tolerate that. If you had just one question about why am I doing it, that would be a fair question. But if you're going to psychoanalyze me and write a real juicy article for the Pitch, I'm not interested. Editor's note: This continued for 19 minutes and 34 seconds, but you've probably read enough about Clay Chastain.

The mall suffers a slow death. Meanwhile, Clay Chastain hijacks talk of light rail.

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