Advisory Panel – Southwest Center Mall


Date: June 14 – 19, 2009

Location: Dallas, TX

Sponsor: City of Dallas

Chair: Charles Long

Subject Area: Economic Development, Urban Design, Shopping Mall Revitalization

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The Assignment

The panel’s assignment was to formulate a plan to revitalize the Southwest Center Mall by exploring alternative uses for the anchor stores, studying the feasibility of mixed uses, and considering the desirability of civic and public uses to contribute to a sense of place at the Southwest Center Mall area. The panel also considered strategies for public investment through public/private partnerships to address the challenging economic and infrastructure needs. Finally, the panel was charged with formulating implementation strategies for achieving its recommendations.

Summary of Recommendations

Following an intense week of interviews, site tours, and discussion, the panel recognized significant opportunity for the city of Dallas to revitalize the Southwest Center Mall. The site has strong potential as a mixed-use development site combining residential, entertainment, retail, and community uses. The site needs to be developed at higher density and with better access. The city and community need to refine this vision and embed it in zoning. Additionally, the city needs to immediately exploit its tools to fund public/private partnerships to encourage the private investment necessary to make this vision a reality. The following five principal recommendations are discussed in more detail in the remainder of this report.

Development Team

The city has a practice of working with whatever developer happens to be on site for a revitalization effort. However, for this project the city must actively recruit a developer or developers to implement the plan envisioned by the community. The Southwest Center Mall revitalization may require several developers with a variety of specialties. The recruitment process should focus on choosing the development team or teams best qualified to accomplish the community’s vision.

Public/Private Partnerships

The public sector will need to negotiate public/private partnerships that address the viability of the development. Such partnerships need to be based on an understanding of the real estate economics so that the deals are fair to the public sector and provide adequate returns to the private sector. The panel formulated these five recommendations on the premise that the city can work with the community to create a place that embodies community values and provides a fair economic return to both private and public investments.

Tax Increment Financing

The city should form an expanded tax increment financing (TIF) district to help finance the subsidies needed to overcome the lack of market support. This TIF district should include the executive airport and surrounding housing areas so that the Southwest Center Mall revitalization will not be accomplished in isolation. More jobs at the airport and better quality neighborhoods surrounding the site will be vital contributors to overall success.

Community Vision

It will be important to initiate a community-based process to consider the ideas presented here and to create a site plan and zoning consistent with revitalization. Adopting a community-based vision that is embedded in zoning will have two significant benefits. First, this vision will attract developers who are driven to achieve the kind of high-quality revitalization that clarity in community vision can inspire. Second, this vision will streamline the development process once a developer gets on board.

Site Control

The city must find a way to buy the Dillard’s and JCPenney sites immediately in order to start assembling the Southwest Center Mall site into one ownership agreement. Gaining control of the Dillard’s and JCPenney sites, especially now at prices that will reflect the current economic situation, will contribute significantly to a successful revitalization effort. The city will need to find funds to advance to this effort. The two department stores themselves could possibly help with seller financing.

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