Archive for the ‘Southwest Center Mall’ Category

My Current Take on Southwest Center Mall

June 29, 2009

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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This is why You should Vote No

May 6, 2009

You know my track record. For years I have been standing up for you and making sure that your voice is being heard at City Hall.

Let me tell you about my journey to Dallas. I looked at cities all around the country, and after going to school in Atlanta I knew I wanted to be somewhere vibrant, progressive and on the move. So I moved here.

Just like you, I did not pick up my entire life to move somewhere dead and stagnant. A lot of you are in the same boat. We could live anywhere, and we chose Dallas and have stayed in Dallas. A lot of folks that are from Dallas have stayed here for the same reason. We are in this fight together!

This is a long post but I have to make sure you fully understand what’s going on here. These are important issues and crucial times.

So let’s get down to business:

This is about two propositions on the ballot that both jeopardize the future of this city. Proposition 1 is about the hotel. Proposition 2 is about limiting the city’s ability to attract and recruit companies.

WHY VOTE NO (instead of Vote Yes):

There has been a lot of confusion as what “Vote No” means and what “Vote Yes” means. It’s set up this way because the people against us are the ones that wrote these propositions. It’s meant to confuse people into voting YES because a lot of us support these projects and this city moving forward.

In this case, vote no means you are for Dallas moving forward.

Let’s look at the hotel first:

If you Vote No, the city will be allowed to help finance the building of hotels within the city of Dallas.

The other side and their $5 million are claiming that hotels are empty, and we shouldn’t do it. You do have to wonder why someone that owns a hotel would spent $5 million if they thought the hotel wouldn’t be a success.

Well, 30 Dallas hotels are supporting Vote No. The hotels that are closest to the location to the Convention Center support it, including the Hyatt Regency and the Adolphus Hotel.

Why? Well if a convention brings 10,000 room nights, and the convention hotel has just 1,000 rooms guess where else they stay? The other hotels!

Here’s a question that I see often: If it’s such a great deal, why doesn’t someone build it privately? The answer is twofold: The city can get a lower interest rate than a private company. The threshold for private industry and their cost of capital is different than the city. Also, the city cares about the overall tax base as well as the economic impact and revenue generated, which is something a private developer doesn’t care about. It’s that simple.

People can say it’s the wrong time to build, but Denver built theirs in 2001 right after 9/11 when it was said that people won’t fly anymore. Denver’s hotel is profitable.

The anti’s also keep comparing Dallas to St. Louis, whose hotel has gone into foreclosure. The difference between Dallas and St. Louis has already been addressed on this blog.

Remember: we lost the Dallas Cowboys, the Texas Motor Speedway, and other things because we bent to people that didn’t want development. What the anti-hotel people aren’t telling you is that in the last 5 years we have lost conventions and tons of money because we don’t have an attached convention center hotel. We have lost conventions that would have brought in $1.5 billion of economic impact.

We cannot attract large conventions if we don’t have an attached convention hotel, and it’s for weather days just like we’ve had the last few weeks. Nobody wants to walk three blocks to a convention in the rain or in 90-degree heat with all of their books and packages. That’s why we’re losing. If you look at the list, the reason next to almost every “decline” of Dallas being chosen is lack of attached Convention Center Hotel.

If we can’t bring in tourists to generate revenue, then we have to make up the difference through higher taxes. Wouldn’t you rather have tourists help pay for what we need?

We are already in the hotel business at DFW airport with the Hyatt – and it’s successful. The DFW Hyatt was financed the same way as our proposed hotel, but not one peep from any anti-hotel people. Why is that? We’ve been waiting for the response for months.

If convention center hotels aren’t needed how can places like the Gaylord Hotel & Convention Center, in the middle of nothing but an outlet mall and a Bass Pro Shop, charge higher rates than those proposed for the Dallas Convention Center hotel? I know. A couple of months ago, we paid more than $200 a night to stay at the Gaylord for a retreat. The food was expensive. The parking was expensive. We still paid it, and I’m sure the City of Grapevine appreciated the revenue.

I found it strange that the anti’s have always said that the Mayor made it personal, when it was the Vote Yes side that immediately called the Mayor arrogant and has continued the name-calling throughout the campaign. However, notice that when it came time to debate in Southern Dallas last Sunday (the day before early voting), the event was ignored and they had to find someone to stand in at the last minute. The Mayor and the hotel supporters at City Council have been accessible to address questions and concerns.

I have to talk about the attacks on our Mayor and City Council. What kills me the most is that I see our Mayor and Deputy Mayor everywhere in the city trying to affect change! The Mayor said in his campaign and his inauguration speech that the hotel was a priority.

Consider some of the sources of most of the anti-hotel sentiment.

When you have so-called papers like the Observer chasing down the Dallas residents who are in the pro-hotel ads for quotes, I wonder if they did the same to the actors in the Vote Yes ads. We know the answer. Their whole existence for publishing seems to be to create an anti-campaign against Mayor Leppert, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, and anyone else that supports southern Dallas. The campaign has been an epic FAIL so far. After the elected officials, the Observer went after the Black churches. It never stops.

One Dallas Observer political writer lives in Frisco, and the other thinks southern Dallas is a third-world slum. Why is this important? Because if the area that you live in has development and all of the things that other neighborhoods don’t have, why wouldn’t you want other areas to have a chance to thrive?

Such a campaign will continue to be an Epic FAIL as Caraway has no legit election competition and most people in southern Dallas continue to see the Mayor work and be seen in southern Dallas. The newspaper that gave us Laura Miller as Mayor is in no place to dictate who should be the Mayor, Deputy Mayor or any other elected position.

AND WHAT ABOUT THE POTENTIAL $$$

$500 million of economic impact is already on the hook if the hotel gets built – these are conventions that are definite if the hotel gets built! In addition, there is another $1.9 Billion in economic impact under consideration from other conventions based on the hotel being built. WE CAN’T AFFORD TO TURN OUR BACK ON THAT OPPORTUNITY!

The city is losing more business than the hotel would cost. Again, we have lost $1.5 Billion in economic impact because of the lack of an attached convention center hotel. $2.4 billion dollars of economic impact and $800 million in direct spending is waiting for us if we VOTE NO!

They also aren’t talking about the things that will go around the hotel, such as more restaurants and shops in this part of downtown. A minor-league baseball park on Industrial that wants to be there BECAUSE of the foot traffic and spending that will come with hotel visitors.

Also remember the jobs: 3,000 jobs during construction of the hotel. 800 permanent jobs, and the thousands of jobs at surrounding places as this part of downtown gets developed! The haters hold their nose at hotel jobs, but these jobs feed families.

If Prop 1 passes, then the city could be bound from doing any type of financing deal for a hotel which includes incentives. Prop 1 is so badly worded that this may be the case.

Is there a risk? Yes. There’s risk in anything, and there’s also reward. We have paid the price time and again for sitting on our hands.

Let’s look at Proposition Two:

Proposition 2 will require Dallas to conduct a citywide vote each time it wants to offer $1 million or more in subsidies to private developers of hotels, condominiums and retail facilities-when just 500 Dallas voters petition for such a vote.

No company or developer is going to wait until next May or November while we have an election. If we cannot help to finance economic development and recruiting of companies, this city will dry up.

Proposition 2 will prevent the city from being able to recruit companies and generate jobs and business in the same way as other cities.

This is a fight against business as usual.

In both cases, we have to decide if one small group is going to decide our future and the future of this city. I don’t want that, and if you’re willing to stand with me and with us, we can succeed.

We finally have a Mayor and City Council (well…most of them, anyway) that understands that to build a great city you must build south of I-30 as well as downtown.

We won’t be able to effectively bring back South Dallas, Oak Cliff, Pleasant Grove, and West Dallas if we don’t VOTE NO. How are we going to pay for it if we don’t VOTE NO?

Now that early voting is over, the election is May 9th.

I want you to vote and to get your friends to vote just like you did last November because it’s just that important. VOTE NO FOR YOUR FUTURE – VOTE NO and SAVE DALLAS.

Find your Election Day polling place
(link)

Demonstration of Touch Screen Voting Machine (Flash player required) (link)

Services Available to Voters with Special Needs in Texas (link)

Starbucks Closing in Dallas

July 18, 2008

I’m not a regular Starbucks customer, but since everyone has been trying to find out which stores are closing I figured I would publish it.

I’m only publishing the Dallas locations, but there are locations all over DFW that will be getting the ax.

For those of us in the Cliff, the Starbucks inside the new Target is not on the list.

(the number included is the Starbucks’ Store Number)

6262 Greenville & Matalee – 3715 Greenville Ave
6280 Preston & Beltline – 14891 Preston Rd
6370 Lovers Lane & Greenville Ave – 5500 Greenville Ave
6372 Camp Wisdom Rd & Hwy 67 – 3431 Camp Wisdom Rd
6387 Skillman And Audelia – 9090 Skillman St
10758 Northpark Mall II – 8687 N Central Exp
10759 LBJ & Montfort – 5631 LBJ Fwy
10877 Illinois & Westmoreland – 3403 W Illinois Ave
14144 Coit & 635 – 7995 LBJ

Here is the full list of Starbucks closings in the U.S. (link)

Apartment Safety in Dallas

September 18, 2007

Now that the City Council Committees are underway, I’ve been checking out the briefings with a particular focus on those related to Public Safety.

Apartment complex crime is a major issue. To me, it’s the number one reason our crime rate is so high. In many cases, out-of-state (and out-of-country) landlords are to blame.

The DPD gets blamed for having a high crime rate and for not being everywhere all of the time, but there’s a flip side to that coin. The other side of that argument, which to me is more relevant, is that large apartment operators are making “grand theft money” by not hiring real security patrols.

Shocking stats after the jump.

Owners of large complexes need to step it up with respect to their security. Many of the apartment developers, especially in the southern sector, are getting by using something called a “courtesy officer.” A courtesy officer is someone that is usually in their own apartment and comes out only if someone makes a phone call.

Most of these courtesy officers don’t drive around and they don’t walk and patrol the property. It’s a marketing tool to make potential renters feel safe while providing zilch in the process. When you need a place to stay and you hear the words “we have courtesy officers on the property,” it gives you a warm fuzzy feeling as you commit the next 12+ months of your life to a complex while unwittingly putting your family’s safety in jeopardy.

According to the most recent briefings, an astonishing 41% of Dallas’ auto thefts occur in apartment complexes. Compare that to 16% at residences and 17% on public streets. When you have the third highest auto theft rate among major cities (population of 1 million+) that’s a major factor (link).

Apartments also make up 31% of the BMV (Burglary of Motor Vehicle) numbers. Compare that to 1% for shopping malls, 12% for residences, and 17% for public streets (link).

If the City requires clubs to hire x amount of security guards per x hundred square feet of space when they get specific use permits (SUPs), then large apartment operators should be held to the same standard. It’s only fair.

Most apartment crime can be prevented by having a visible security patrol. A lot of crimes in complexes are attributed to hanging out in breezeways and parking lots for hours on end; this is explicitly prohibited in most standard apartment leases. Such minor things go unchecked and it becomes dangerous over time.

People may get mad for me telling it like it is but know I’m telling the truth. This is how it goes down:

A lot of times a group of thugs knows one person in a complex and he/she brings a bunch of friends to turn your parking lot into a party zone. People hang out (usually 25 or under). They often drink and some use drugs. They block traffic and throw footballs around in the street. They all hang around while one of them fixes a car.

They clog up breezeways and turn up their car stereos to 10 and sit around with their cars idling and headlights on so they can keep the party going past dark. One of these degenerates objects to having to move so people that pay rent to live there can get to their home. A fight jumps off which often results in the person who pays rent to live there getting hurt. Another statistic. Or this group hits somebody’s car with a football and dents the hood, but when the person who pays rent to live there comes out to find the culprit nobody knows what happened.

Or, people who hang out are watching your every move so they can break into your car or outright steal your vehicle.

Violence also occurs because your complex having the rep as being “the spot to hang out” or a place to score drugs will attract rival groups of thugs which will turn your complex into a free-fire zone or a multifamily fight-fest on the regular. Through August 2007, 31 murders have occurred in apartments and 23 have occurred in their parking lots (38% of the total). More info on murders is here.

There are lots of easy targets because apartments are often populated by single females and young families. And the thugs know it. Now how in the world is any of this the fault of the Dallas Police Department?

The crime rate will remain steady unless the City starts to require large apartment complexes to have visible, active, on-the-ground patrols (not “courtesy patrols”) in their complexes and enforces that requirement. If not, expect more of the same.

My Annual Rant about Southwest Center Mall

August 24, 2007

My Annual Rant about Southwest Center Mall

Why has SW Center Mall (aka Red Bird Mall) continued to fall off? Not much has changed since last year’s post.

Three reasons:

  • Store quality
  • The lack of upgrades in the common areas (the mall looks tired). You may also need a front-end alignment after driving through the parking lot.
  • The perception of safety. I know Northpark technically has more crime but would you let your wife go to Red Bird at night? The lighting is terrible. The drive-by shooting at the Whataburger and the everyday nonsense at the Shell station at 67 & Camp Wisdom doesn’t help either.

The funny thing about Northpark is that I always see my Oak Cliff neighbors at the mall. Why? They have the stores, and it’s a pleasant place to shop. True to their roots, the owners of SW Center Mall have continued the mall’s descent to a bazaar-like operation.

I remember that a couple of years ago I was in a meeting with some community development folks and I said that they should demolish the mall and build a lifestyle-type center. They laughed.

Now, what is Uptown Village?…a lifestyle mall being built in Cedar Hill.

When Dillard’s & Macy’s move to Cedar Hill’s Uptown Village, the mall is done. The SuperTarget is going in at Wheatland & I-20, so that opportunity has passed.

They should run it over and start new. Last year, only two new closed-in malls (like SW Center Mall) were built in the US. It’s a dinosaur.

It’s going to be a tough job to change the perception and bring a good shopping venue into the community.

October 20, 2006

Two Realities in the City of Dallas

On Thursday night, CBS ran a story titled City Of Dallas Experiencing Economic Boom (link).

I beg to differ. Just because sales at NorthPark Mall are up and a few people in southern Dallas can buy a new house doesn’t mean much.

The article boasted of people buying million-dollar condos and the like. For sport, one non-rich person was thrown in as a new homeowner.

The reality is that a lot of new homes are bought by people that turn them into Section 8 houses. Trust me, I know. They’ll be packaged in a year or two and sold in blocks to future slumlords. Other than Unity Estates in Oak Cliff, most of these new developments do not have HOAs (Homeowner Associations) and it shows. Many are crime ridden before they even sell out to new homeowners.

We have large-scale slumlord complexes such as Chaucer Village (link), Canterbury Village (link), and Broadmoor (link) where the good citizens live like prisoners. These slumlords rent to anyone breathing no matter what criminal record they have to increase occupancy rates and then re-sell the complexes at a profit to buyers who don’t care about renter safety.

Then the story touts the low unemployment numbers. I have always looked at unemployment numbers as total b.s. Everyone knows that those numbers are based on who is actually filing. How many people exist whose benefits have run out or have just given up on getting unemployment? Thousands.

We have a County Commissioner that has abandoned the southern sector of Dallas for his new friends in Desoto, Duncanville, and Lancaster. The Justice of the Peace court is overcrowded with people that can’t afford to pay tickets and citations. The Inland Port is nice but it doesn’t mean a damned thing to a senior citizen that is living behind burglar bars and can’t afford to pay her electric bill.

The only new community grocery store that I know about is Chi’s Grocery at Denley and Morrell (link) . Instead of a plaque someone should buy him an M-16 to protect his store.

There seems to be no limit to the amount of high-income property that can be built between downtown Dallas and Preston Hollow. If that’s your definition of a comeback I guess Big D is booming.

I guess it depends on which side of the river you live. I know that if you exit I-45 or I-35 anywhere south of I-30 in Dallas there is a different reality. Drive on Corinth Street, Sunnyvale, Ledbetter, or on Martin Luther King boulevard and tell me where “Big D is booming.”

Come take a ride with me…I’ll show you the other side of Dallas.

June 26, 2006

Cedar Hill Shopping Center Breaks Ground… what will happen to SW Center Mall?

Dillard’s and Macy’s are going to be part of the project. The Dillard’s and Foley’s (owned by the same company as Macy’s) stores at SW Center Mall will be too close to the ones in Cedar Hill; it’s almost a certainty that those stores will be closed.

Most elected officials were blindsided, but I believe that we could have been ahead of the curve in dealing with the mall. We have to keep an open line of communication with retailers, major real estate owners, and shopping center owners. We must be proactive to make sure our neighborhoods retain their stores. I know that Councilman Fantroy tried to work with some different retail groups to bring them the mall, and kudos to him for doing that, but unfortunately it didn’t pan out. How much help did he get in this matter?

For example, the UrbanMarket (the grocery store that recently opened downtown) has been threatening to close their doors because they aren’t getting the support they need from the City. Angela Hunt, the councilwoman for District 14, is actively involved in trying to keep the store open. We need more of that in the southern sector. Sometimes, the store will close or move away. You sometimes can’t stop the movements of big corporations, but at least we would be ahead of the curve and could work on some countermeasures to offset the loss of city revenues.

It’s just like when the Chili’s restaurant closed a few months back. The restaurant was located at 67 & Camp Wisdom (map). It was a thriving business, always full on the weekend and often crowded during the week. It was one of the only major restaurants in the area that didn’t focus solely on fried chicken. One day, it was just closed. No explanation, no heads-up, no nothing. Just a vacant store with a ‘for lease’ sign is all that remained. Now, those kids that worked in Chili’s have no jobs. Now, there is no decent major restaurant located in that area (buffets don’t count).

Camp Wisdom Road is now in a crisis. ALL OF THE STORES ARE LEAVING. From Haverty’s to Chili’s to Circuit City to others… They’re all moving to Cedar Hill. These stores are being replaced with cheap stores that are already prevalent in our neighborhoods. They sell cheap clothes, bootleg purses, gold and diamond grillz, and other items which add little to the tax base and downgrade the profile of our shopping environments.

The last remaining viable pieces of an economic engine are being stripped away. When it’s all said and done, Oak Cliff will be left with no major retail.

The new owner of SW Center mall has a reputation for operating bazaar-like shopping centers like Six Flags Mall in Arlington.

I made this plea to some of the ‘powers that be’ and I got the “treatment.” That’s when everyone says, “yeah, that’s a GREAT idea!” and nothing happens

With no viable retail on the horizon, I believe that the best thing to do may be to demolish the mall and start over. Unfortunately, we may have missed our opportunity to do anything about it. The property was foreclosed upon in 2003, which created a window of opportunity. Once the property changed hands last December, I think we missed our shot.

The city has a major opportunity to develop major tax dollars in this area. I fear what will be left in its place. I hope my fears aren’t confirmed.

Click here for a History of the Mall (from wikipedia).