Friday, September 30, 2011
Lessons learned during tour of Red Bird/Camp Wisdom in Dallas
It should be up to the community to define itself, not others.
Thursday morning Ms. Edna Pemberton led a delegation of 12 individuals (including myself) on a tour of the Red Bird/Camp Wisdom corridor. I wanted to share a few things I learned on our three-hour tour.
1. People care
There are a lot of folks who have been there and done that when it comes to Southwest Center Mall. They remember the center’s heyday and want nothing to do with what’s going on in the area today. They’ve given up on any hope of success.
Then there are those of us who want to see the area survive despite the challenges that lie ahead. The 12 folks who joined us Thursday morning at Friendship-West (at 8 in the morning) lived or worked in the area and want be part of the solution, not a pity party. They were excited and engaged, ready to tell others about what they saw and how they can help.
We had young people, not so young people, members of the church, the District 8 Planning and Zoning Commissioner, and members of the media. I received a tweet during the tour asking who was sponsoring the trip. I posed the question to the group. "It’s grassroots, it’s community sponsored,” someone said.
I haven’t just seen this from the others in the van, I see and hear it almost every time I enter the mall. Lots of the folks looking to the future who don’t bring the baggage from the past. That’s a good thing.
2. Paul Quinn College has water needs
Well, they don’t need water exactly, but they do need a new irrigation system. Speaking with farm manager Andrea Bithell during the tour, she said an upgraded irrigation system would make sure that when they water their crops, all the water would be put to good use instead of losing some to the air. It would also ensure that only the crops are watered and not weeds. The lowest quote they’ve received so far is for a news system is $5,000.
3. Paul Quinn has herbs to sell
Bithell also said they have rosemary, chocolate mint, and spearmint for sale right now. You can call 972.822.5010 if you're interested in making a purchase.
4. The old theater has a new occupant
The old 6-10 theater building on the east side of the parking lot is being refurbished. Indoor Soccer Zone is being built and construction was going on when we pulled up. One of the workers explained that they are putting in four indoor soccer fields with a bar upstairs where patrons can look over the games.
In my mind, I see it kind of like a Main Event with soccer instead of bowling, but that may be wishful thinking. They have applied for a liquor license, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but means the community should be vigilant through the process. They say they hope to be ready within a month or so.
5. Three area tenants are headed to Wheatland Town Crossing
I knew Office Depot was headed out of their Camp Wisdom/Highway 67 building and I had forgotten Ross is leaving as well. But I did not know that the Social Security Administration on the southwest side of the parking lot was headed to Wheatland Town Crossing, too. For weeks I’ve seen the progress of the new building back near Aldi, but now they have the Social Security’s sign out front. It’s a beautiful building, and while these three moves are not the net loss of Toys ‘R Us, a plan must be developed to backfill these defections. Target on Cockrell Hill still sits empty and the list goes on.
6. I’m prophetic
Three years ago, I started working on an article for D Magazine called Saving Old Red Bird Mall which ran in May of 2009. In the article I suggested tearing down the anchors on the west side of the building and trimming down the available retail.
Well, the owners of Southwest Center Mall have put a temporary wall out just past the commons area and the old J.C. Penney building is falling down on itself. It needs to be brought down completely. The effort to turn the Old Dillard’s into Fiesta Mundo have stalled. But the rest of the building is doing okay. Actually they’re doing better than okay. I’ll elaborate more on that next week.
7. There’s a silent push to bring "Red Bird" back
Before we left for the tour, Ms. Pemberton passed out bags embroidered with the words “Red Bird Mall.” During the trip, at least half of the time we referred to the mall as Red Bird. To refer back to the D Magazine article again, I wrote “Start by changing the name back to Red Bird Mall.” Every other part of town holds on to their name, but ironically enough, the name Red Bird was taken (see Executive Airport). Prestonwood Mall is now Prestonwood Shopping Center. It should be up to the community to define itself, not others.
There’s more to come regarding the mall next week, but know that things are better inside and there’s a long way to go outside.
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