Old Red Bird Mall's About to Get a Fresh Look from the Urban Land Institute

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Moments ago, the Dallas City Council approved spending $120,000 in economic development grant money so the Urban Land Institute can "assess redevelopment options" at Southwest Center Mall. As we noted earlier this week, the council's Economic Development Committee took a peek at the proposal, and it was recommended to the full council almost unanimously, with only outgoing council member Mitchell Rasansky voicing his opposition to spending taxpayer money on a privately owned mall worth more than $56 million. Rasansky again was the sole vote against the proposal at today's council meeting

After Office of Economic Development director Karl Zavitkovsky made his pitch -- the ULI, he said, will provude "good, unbaised input on best redevelopment for the mall" -- the council made it clear it welcomed the outside help. Said Tennell Atkins, in whose district the former Red Bird Mall sits, folks living near the mall spend most of their money in "Cedar Hill, the Galleria, Town East, Arlington"; Ron Natinsky and Mayor Tom Leppert agreed, insisting hundreds of thousands in tax revenue was escaping the southern sector every year.

To which Rasansky yet again responded: "I am not a supporter of us going into a private investment and doing a study to being in six, eight people and dine and feed them for a week on taxpayer money."

Leppert didn't take kindly to the dig at ULI, saying, "This is probably about as cost-effective a means as getting this expertize as we could imagine. ... Clearly it's a private entity, but the reality is it's a big piece of land with enormous implications for the community" should the mall fail.

"Mitch, Mitch, Mitch," said Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway. "What do we do? What do we do? We can't allow the mall to sit idle and wait. Something has to move forward for those folks and that community, and I'd much rather be doing something than sitting and waiting." If nothing else, he said, the southern sector's in desperate need of a movie theater -- "and Southwest Center Mall is the best location for a movie theater in the southern sector."

Several times, folks pointed to Cinderella City Mall outside Denver, a 1968 mall that, like the former Red Bird, fell into a state of decay till it was nothing but an abandoned shell. Eventually, the city of Englewood, Colorado, demolished the joint and put in its place a library and other city offices.

"We have not done enough when it comes to Southwest Center Mall," said Mayor Pro Tem Elba Garcia. "We haven't found that piece of the puzzle that will make that difference."

Linda Koop, who likewise supported the ULI's involvement, asked about some short-term solutions while the ULI studies the site and offers its recommendation -- like, maybe, better signage off the surrounding freeways. Ron Natinsky offered his own suggestions: "Maybe we should rename is 'Galleria South.'"


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