As you may know, the City of Dallas is getting very serious about saving two near-comatose shopping malls: Valley View Center at the intersection of LBJ and Preston in the north, and Southwest Center Mall in the south. The council is considering a budget of around $432 million, most of it aimed at helping the five major property owners between Valley View and the Galleria create what Beck Ventures are calling Midtown Dallas. We’ve talked about Midtown Dallas before, and how excited (and lucky) we are that a private developer wants to transform a weary mall into an exciting development. Turns out, we can thank my City Councilman Lee Kleinman for suggesting a TIF to finance the project and for making a large park a substantial centerpiece of the project. Kleinman recently told the Dallas Morning News that while infrastructure creation is a big part of this TIF (tax increment financing), it’s not the biggest part of it. The notion of the park up at Valley View is way cool, think Klyde Warren north. Lee really loves parks as he has been on the board of the Dallas Parks and Recreational Department, and is a founding board member of Friends of Northaven Trail, and Friends of White Rock Creek Trail. Those groups have created a fine network of linear parks, commuter and recreational bike and hike trails in Dallas, plus sites for community-oriented events.
“When we put the TIF in place we put our money where our mouth is, and 45 percent of the TIF will go toward the park, which is highly unusual — the first time the city has done this,” he says. “This will help the developers, but we’ll also get new parkland in North Dallas we haven’t had before. The developers would have liked to have seen more money go toward development, but we held firm: The park is going to be highest priority on this list.”
So glad to hear it. Dallas will, in my opinion, continue to grow as a series of neighborhood depots; there ‘s really not much more space left in Uptown, and downtown is still a slow grow. I think Valley View could become another, better Atlantic Station, a 24-hour community north of Atlanta on the site of the old Atlantic Steel Mill. Atlantic Station has become a poster child model for smart growth and sustainable development, though there have been crime issues, which we need to think about at Midtown. But Atlantic Station has an attractive mix of affordable, middle-income, and up-scale housing with world-class restaurants, theaters, and retailers. Nestled among 10,000 high density homes are charming sidewalk cafes and expansive parks. There’s color-coded underground parking: you ride there, park your car and walk.
Apparently, most of the TIF funds in Dallas will go toward infrastructure redo and the massive Midtown park, and there will be economic development grants for housing.
According to the Dallas Morning News, 10 percent of the total TIF allocation will go toward improving The Mall in Southern Dallas, formerly Red Bird Mall, off Marvin D. Love Freeway and Interstate 20. That mall, too, has seen way better days. In 2009, the city gave a $120,000 grant to the Urban Land Institute so they could come up with a way to salvage the shopping center. Experts say the ULI came up with a bunch of great ideas, but no money to accomplish them. At one point the city toyed with buying a hunk of the center for $2 million — yikes! The last thing the City of Dallas needs is to be in the development business!
The City is hoping that the success of Midtown might spur a developer to have an interest in The Mall.
Aside: why the name change? If people knew and loved Red Bird Mall, why did they change the branding — just to confuse loyal shoppers?
“The malls in their present states are doomed, Office of Economic Development honcho Karl Zavitkovsky said, because they don’t “work anymore and are very complicated to unwind. It’s increasingly challenging without public participation to make the development work, and to create any kind of sustainable development plan is almost impossible without public assistance.”
I write about this because last Thursday night I was at the opening gala for Belk at The Dallas Galleria, and then Wednesday morning shoppers were lined up outside the new store with southern sass that takes up the space vacated by (first) Marshall Fields and (second) Saks Fifth Avenue. I have never been to such an exciting store opening! Country western music, food, lots of thank yous, and sales people handing out free gift cards. There is obviously still a market for shopping centers in some parts of Dallas, just maybe not on every corner. The stores that thrive will have to beat out the internet shopping competition with great customer service and more.
By the way: the Belk folks are looking at Texas as their number one expansion market.