Southwest Center Mall: Let it die or should the city buy it?

Southwest Center Mall/Red Bird Mall has been in trouble for about as long as I’ve been in Dallas — there have been crime problems, occupancy problems and just the general economic malaise of the area surrounding it. Something needs to be done, so it has been said quite a few times, and in the vernacular of today’s activist governments, apparently the city is only group capable of doing anything, or so goes a recent story in the DMN about the mall and a recommendation that the city buy a chunk of it.

The latest proposal comes from a $120,000 study the city funded, and it calls for the city to buy a couple of of the anchor stores in the project (if not the whole thing) and then work to consolidate tenants, re-lease a portion of the property and generally get the property set up to sell to a real developer. If the city doesn’t take immediate action, the study says Macy’s, Sears and Burlington Coat Factory will bail out of the mall.

What it all means after the jump…

The intent is good: This neighborhood needs help, and in the twisted thought process of the day, a shopping mall is a defacto community center. But just like with the convention center hotel downtown, is the best solution for the city to spend taxpayer money propping up a project that has barely been able to stand on its own for nearly 20 years? If that’s not enough to ponder, check out this story about what happened when San Francisco decided to get into the retail leasing business.

If a private real estate developer thought the deal was sustainable, he or she would buy it straight up. If a private real estate developer thought the deal would make money only with a city subsidy, he or she would be on his or her knees at city hall right now asking for money — and based on the city’s track record, the council would probably find it somewhere.

But if no private real estate developer has any interest whatsoever in the project, does the city really need to step in and start developing another massive project in Dallas? If we’re going to get out of the economic trouble we’re in, at some point we’re going to have to let businesses and real estate projects that can’t make money fail rather than prop them all up — in due time, if it makes sense, a private developer will show up and do something productive with the land and property.And how many qualified wanna-be real estate developers do we have employed at city hall anyway?

Maybe it’s time for this mall to face its fate, without any more "help" from the city.

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  • JLeon

    I agree with you, Rick. Even though it does bring something to the community, I can’t envision the city being able to do anything to prop it up substantially. It’s not an easy time for older malls in general, and Red Bird Mall is no different. Two malls that come to immediately come to mind are Richardson Square Mall and Big Town. What can the city really do when people no longer want to shop somewhere?