Scott Beck grew up at Valley View Mall, the same mall he bought about a week ago. Well, not actually in the mall, but within two miles of it, near Beltline Road and Preston. Translation: he was a North Dallas kid. He recalls vividly going to Tilt at Valley View with his brother and playing at the arcade for hours.
His father, Jeff, is in the commercial real estate business and supported his kids, Scott, Jarrod and a sister, through real estate. Scott went to Greenhill. After graduating with a business degree (M.B.A.) from the University of Texas, he cut his financial teeth on Wall Street over at private equity then JP Morgan Chase. Then he came back home to Dallas to settle down, get married, and join the burgeoning family biz. In 1994, the Beck family bought the last 1200 acres at Trophy Club, a 24oo acre development in northeast Tarrant County that is actually the first master planned community in Texas and was originally designed for retiree. Today it is highly sought for families. In fact, just last week I met a young couple who want to buy in Trophy Club because they think the schools are great and the homes generous.
And now Scott owns 60 acres at the corner of Preston and LBJ, a dilapidated shopping center he plans to transform into a thriving master planned community along the lines of Legacy in Plano with the authenticity of the crafts shops and restaurants of Bishop Arts, and the age and spending demographics of Uptown. In fact, he up and hired the same architect who created Legacy, Mike Twitchell.
“This is the precipice of a renaissance for this area of North Dallas,” said Scott.”A centralized urban village.”
We all know the shopping center of yesteryear is dead as we know it — the shopping center that Valley View is in its current state. They were by products of a suburban society. Teenagers cannibalized them, and internet shopping drove the final stake. Prestonwood Mall, R.I.P. I admit, I hadn’t been to Valley View in YEARS — maybe I went to Sears to look for a refrigerator, but I honestly think the last time I set foot in Valley View, Bloomingdales was still there, and I do not mean the new discount Bloomies over on Park Lane. The mall is not dead, said Scott, and he challenged me to go see it for myself as he nibbled a Wetzel pretzel he had just picked up.
He was right. It’s not NorthPark or Galleria for sure, but it’s not dead.
Beck knows he cannot revive Valley View in its present form, those days are gone. He can bring in some cool stores and maybe get back some folks who go to Willow Bend or Stonebriar for what they used to get at Valley View. Maybe he’ll poach some traffic from the Galleria across the way, or NorthPark, Dallas’ shopping mecca, with some neat tenants. But the Valley View story, he told me, is just beginning.
“This is the largest contiguous piece of property in the area,” he says. “Preston Road to Noel, Alpha to 635.”
It will take time, it will have to marinate, but he says he wants the conversation to start toote suite, like today, on what the best possible use can be of this space as he closes a chapter on the largest closed air mall in Dallas and re-shapes it into a modern urban environment. In effect, another live-work-play-shop-eat-entertain community about 12 to 15 miles north of downtown CBD Dallas. And he wants everyone involved in the discussion –social, public, private, partnerships, the city, neighbors, arts and real estate segments.
We can see the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge prominently in the horizon, looking due south from the sixth (top) floor at Valley View Tower, 13101 Preston, the office building on the very northwest corner of Preston and LBJ, one of the busiest intersections in North Texas, where Scott now offices. Built in 1977, the last owners filed Chapter 11 in 2009. Several floors here have already been transformed into prime office space with new surfaces, gleaming bathrooms and even an exercise studio on the first floor that employees actually use. Look at this view, says Scott, and picture living here in a luxury high rise adjacent to a luxury five star hotel like a St. Regis.
The name Midtown: it was two years in the making, emanated from discussions with the City, Jones Lang LaSalle all calling it the Midway project. If you bubble it south of LBJ you think, um no, that is North Dallas. But really, Valley View is where North Dallas begins and stretches north for miles. Valley View is also “midway” between the Tollway and Central, sort of, but when you look at it in relation to the whole city, the name makes more sense. We are, says Beck, naming an area of the city.
Which is why he wants everyone to buy into the concept. What Beck envisions: several million square feet of office space, office towers, office above retail. The usual development hierarchy is entertainment (play) and related restaurants, living, working and shopping components; Beck is starting with living and playing. One of the first developments he wants to leap into is affordable live/work housing for artists, kind of like that at the Dallas Design District. This way, artists could begin building an interactive community almost immediately.
“Imagine,” says Beck, “that you who have lived in North Dallas or Preston Hollow all your life wants to move to a multi-family or high rise, higher density living, but you don’t want to move downtown to do it.”
The stores I’ve always shopped are here, he says, not downtown. My family is nearby. So would I live in a new high rise at LBJ and Preston because Preston Royal and Whole Foods are just two major intersections away?
Maybe. Definitely more familiar territory, which provides a comfort level. After all, the only other high rise condo north of LBJ is the Bonadventure, which struggled for years, high density living way ahead of it’s time.
For now he is focused on the existing mall, where they are writing leases up to 3 years. Tenants can transition to new spaces. To be clear, the Valley View we know today will be gone, replaced by streets where we maybe got Fruit of the Loom briefs or a Liz Claiborne jacket. The eventual two billion dollar transformation will cater to a younger demographic, age 21 to 35, single or newly married, big-time disposable income who eat out a lot and go to movies, frequent specialty boutiques and want entertainment at their fingertips. Get the message: active — bike and walk trails, gyms, jogging paths, tress, water, gorgeous landscaping. They can live at Dallas Midtown, or park underground.
Which leads us to another discussion: how will Dallas Midtown connect with the rest of the city, like public transportation? Beck doesn’t yet know what it will be, or in what form, but he envisions a mode of public transportation within the 400 acres. Of course, Dallas is, to me, still very much a car city and will be so for a long time. I find downtown extremely pedestrian unfriendly, which is why I wonder why, outside of the Arts District, anyone would want to walk it. That is one reason why the planned centers like West Village have exploded. They were actually planned, they didn’t slap another building up next to an existing keep going. The best we may hope to accomplish in my opinion is drive, park and contain your environment as much as possible. Young families still favor the suburbs for better schools, four bedrooms for $150 to 300K. And there is only so much affluence to go around.
“I see half the population density of downtown Dallas here,” says Beck. Downtown Dallas is at a density of about 1200 people per square mile. “This is an evolving project. Take a look at what you see now, because in ten years, you won’t recognize this intersection.”