My Current Take on Southwest Center Mall

A lot has been written lately about Southwest Center Mall. A $120,000 study has been commissioned and presented. Shawn Williams wrote an article for DMagazine. Numerous editorials from various newspapers have been published. I’m not sure if people are going to like what I like to say about the mall, but that’s life.

I’ve been writing about the mall since I started Dallas Progress.

One thing that has to be done, no matter whose feathers get ruffled, is to face facts about the area around the mall. The area around the mall is in shambles.

I don’t feel safe in this area; that is why I have decided to move my family from this neighborhood. The main reason that stores have left is one of the same reasons that I am leaving. All of the writing, trying to expose various issues in this neighborhood, has been for naught. We still don’t get the proper help over here.

Some may feel that I am giving up on this area. All I can say is that I lived it.

All of the police attention in this area goes to the neighborhood east of 67 which includes the Chaucer Place neighborhood. Of course, that is inside the South Central Police division which is led by the magnificent Deputy Chief Sherryl Scott. The west side of 67 (Marvin D Love Freeway) is a different police division.

The only time we had any type of consistent patrols was when Pastor Rickie Rush put together an informal patrol of hundreds of men and dozens of vehicles from IBOC Church. They were the best security we ever had in this area.

While we spent $120,000 for the study of the mall, my buddy Shawn Williams gave you a lot of similar insight for the $5 cost of DMagazine. The study does go into more depth, but the basic premise is the same.

My take is a little different. I feel that putting a lot of money into the mall, and only the mall, is a mistake. When you look at the Urban Land Institute (ULI) study (warning: this is a 15MB PDF so it may take time to download), it draws comparisons to Prestonwood Mall. I can understand that; but what it shows is that the two areas are starkly different in terms of income, worker traffic, and spending power. Instead of the city putting $50+ million (as it has been suggested) into one shopping mall, I would rather it gets spread through a bunch of small centers all over southern Dallas.

With respect to Southwest Center Mall, several opportunities were missed. We know that the retail moved to Cedar Hill. It moved there because the city didn’t support former Councilman James Fantroy’s attempts to revitalize the mall between 2003-2006. For example, he tried to put a new Target and a movie theater in and around the vacant JC Penney space to jumpstart redevelopment but the numbers wouldn’t work without city help. As a result, Inland Southwest began to develop a new center at Hampton & Wheatland which includes the Target store that opened in March of 2008.

Some have suggested that we should consider turning Southwest Center Mall into an outlet mall. However, our chance at the outlet mall opportunity has come and gone. In the past year,Grand Prairie snagged an outlet mall that will be next to I20 & 360 owned by Prime Outlets (the same owner as the one in San Marcos), and another got announced for another city farther north (Irving, I think).

You will never get the income parameters you need to bring the stores that you want until you solve the number one problem around the mall. Again, it goes back to neighborhood safety. You have to start the revitalization by tearing down of some of the apartment complexes in the area.

All of the good businesses are leaving the Mall area, most of the reason is that the business owners and potential customers are constantly robbed and assaulted by criminals in the area. As an example of the issues around here, Pizza Hut won’t even deliver to apartment complexes in our neighborhood.

Some apartment operators work to maintain their properties, keep gates in working order, and make sure that they don’t house criminals. Many do not.

One way these thugs get around background checks is to date a female with a decent job and get the apartment in her name. Then, the thug moves in and here comes the crime. The girl then is scared to kick him out because she has been threatened to keep quiet, and the apartment complex does nothing about it. This happens more than you think.

Some of the worst offenders in the area are below. The good tenants are held hostage in the complexes by the thugs and crime element that certain owners refuse to eradicate.

(the crime numbers for 2009 are from January 1st-June 29th)

  • Whispering Hollow – 6910 S Cockrell Hill Road (100 crimes in 2008, 52 in 2009). Owners are based out of California.
  • Redbird Trails – 3636 W Red Bird – again, the owners are based in California. There is always a line of cars outside the gates because they are always broken. Usually a lot of people walking in and out. You can see the drug traffic.
  • Arborstone – 6500 S Cockrell Hill Rd (58 crimes in 2008, 26 in 2009). Check out this stellar review from apartment ratings.com:

I wouldn’t recommend this place to my worst enemy. First off, there is always trash and broken bottles everywhere. People sit outside and drink beer and smoke weed and nobody does anything. Maintenance doesn’t fix a thing.

They will fix the easiest thing that needs to be fixed and leave the other things broke.

The security guards are a joke. They had some really bad ones before that just flirted and hung out, but now they have “invisible” ones that you never see. Oh, except from when they are sleep in their cars. The office staff are not helpful at all, the only one worth something is Deon who works on the weekends. The manager is mean and could care less about the residents. They can’t answer your questions, you have to keep calling to get any help, they don’t listen to you, but they are quick to put a notice on your door about the smallest fees like a $2.00 fee. I am writing a formal complaint to the owners.

People say they were improving because they evicted some of the drugs dealers here, but what about the other things. The crazy man who walks around and harasses the women in building 11 and 10 whenever he hasn’t taken his pills. The random gunshots. The half man/woman hooker that does its business out of the empty apartments. You mean to tell me I know all this and the office staff doesn’t. So sad. I cannot wait until my lease is up so I can move

Other complexes should also be considered. A check of the crime records or apartment reviews will show similar reports. They include:

  • Park Village -7575 S. Westmoreland – Dallas, TX 75237
  • Harbors – 7550 S. Westmoreland – Dallas, TX 75237
  • Cielo Ranch – 3829 Gannon Lane – Dallas, TX 75237
  • Broadmoor – 3900 Investor Dr – Dallas, TX 75237
  • Brookfield Apts – 4060 Preferred Pl -Dallas, TX 75237

Add in the motels along I-20, and it adds up to a recipe for disaster if left unchecked.

The model for this area should be based on what was done along Skillman. Yes there is a TIF called Skillman Corridor, but most of the developments received no TIF money. In fact, the only major development that received funding was the Lake Highlands Town Center ($23 million for a $350 million development). The total amount of non-TIF related development in this area: $300 million.

Retail developers will return once they see strong signs that the area is changing. Until then, we’ll be writing these types of articles and blog posts for years to come.

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9 Responses to “My Current Take on Southwest Center Mall”

  1. Scott Hounsel Says:

    Excellent comments. The Prestonwood comparisons made by others are comical. Walmart already saved that site and is not an option for Redbird. Prestonwood is not even fully leased. The ULI recommendation is for the City to buy the empty anchors before the others leave. That is a tough call – but the City should either publicly (A)commit to the site and take control of the redevelopment or (B) declare the mall dead and invest as you have described.

  2. Rawlins Says:

    I completely follow your line of thinking here, and appreciate the blow by blow look at this situation with open eyes and personal firsthand awareness. I ate at Southwest recently after a trek at Boulder Park (Redbird and 67) and it feels lousy around there. And why? You pretty much ran it down. I will be immensely disappointed if money is thrown at this mall when as you say, Michael, this mall is hostage to the surrounding area(s), captive to the predatory scum you seek so honestly to evict. It is an insult to us all, whatever our color, to have opportunistic sociopath losers allowed to 'win' when the potential for that area is enormous. I cannot even imagine your frustration.

  3. TheMapman Says:

    Michael -The Target failed because General Growth pulled out of the project and because Target felt better about the access at the Polk/Wheatland location, not because of a "lack of city support". The city can't possibly be to blame for everything.And the mall still does have a lot going for it. As noted in the ULI briefing, the three anchor stores – Macy's, Burlington Coat Factory, and Sears – are still there and still profitable. The ULI proposes a TIF district very similar to the Skillman TIF in that it encapsulates a larger area and may provide opportunities to address the multi-family issues. But until there's a draw to the area, like a town center-style development at SWC Mall, you'll never get any investment in the apartments. Additionally, the ULI plan reduces the total retail at the site by nearly half, which puts it much more in line with demand and updates the design of the mall to make it considerably more modern.You are right about the MF situation and the neighborhood in general, but having a failed mall (rather than a failing mall or a mall that, with city commitment, can be reinvigorated) is just going to make your effort a lot more difficult. The fact is that despite all of those issues most of the non-mall retail space in the Camp Wisdom/Westmoreland area is occupied and is arguably the best retail mix in Southern Dallas outside of Pinnacle Park.

  4. Michael Davis-Dallas Progress Says:

    good points made by all.Mapman I would have to disagree. First, I didn't say the city was 100% to blame for this situation, but they are responsible for a good portion.This goes back to the discretionary funding that was available via the 2003 bond package. Some council people were willing to pool their funding and some weren't, which would have made the deal at SWC Mall much more attractive. Our course, the Mayor at that time never mentioned the area much less toured the area to see what could be done. She was too busy cutting the development tools we did have like the ones available via brick & mortar funding via CDBG. To me, that more than aptly defines a lack of city support.And my point about the study stands as well. While they have good ideas and presented stats that brought it home, Shawn Williams of DallasSouth said the exact same thing about the partial demolition and opening up the mall on the west side. Shawn's article was published in mid-May which means it was completed in late April.25% of the document consisted of pictures of random development. There weren't many examples and no deal point illustrations within the ULI document. Of course we know to use a TIF and do public-private partnerships, but give us examples of a strategy that was successful with real numbers.In this area, you need apartment complexes to come down first (before the mall is re-done). Living over here, ducking bullets (as I have written about in the past) and seeing the constant mayhem that occurs I'm telling you that the apartments are a major issue. Maybe not all of them have to go, but 3-4 complexes at a minimum. The list in this post is a good start.If you have 90% lower-income apartments surrounding the mall, you'll never get the demographic needed within the necessary radius to draw the retail you want.The first two things anyone in site selection wants to do is: 1) look at the numbers and 2) tour the area.You won't get past the first meeting with any site-selection decision makers with demographics and crime like we have surrounding SWC mall.

  5. EdGray4America.com Says:

    A great article and a sad commentary on a neighborhood thatdeserves better. My formative years were spent in many of the neighborhoods and the Red Bird Mall. Again a sad commentary for a neighborhood and a mall that needs more than just a facelift.Thanks Michael for writing the article.

  6. tungshan Says:

    Michael, I love this article. How do you get crime stats for each apartment complex?

  7. Michael Davis-Dallas Progress Says:

    The best place for stats is the DPD homepage, which has a link to the records (button for public access).

  8. V's Vibe Spot Says:

    A great article! I used to love Red Bird Mall & feel bittersweet every time I've been there in the last 5 years. It would be great if you and other people who want the best for DALLAS could spearhead needed developement in the South Dallas & Oak Cliff.

  9. Ms. BettyCulbreath Says:

    Southwest center mall is dead and should be bulldozed.First there was never an access road to get to the mall from day one.THE apartments around the mall are not low income,there are some section 8 vouchers users but the complexes are not low income. The people make the area bad,and landlords allow property to go down.Code enforcement could help that, if they would.I have been in my home 26 years and last week someone broke into my truck in my front drive and stole the CD player,never in 26 years has that happen so the crime is now spilling over into adjoining neighborhoods.

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