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05/01/2012 - 12:55 PM
Beck Ventures has big plans for Dallas’ Valley View Center mall
Dallas, Texas - On Monday morning, Jeff Beck and sons Scott and Jarrod stood on the sixth floor of the office tower at Preston Road and LBJ Freeway looking down at their new purchase: the 39-year-old Valley View Center, surrounded by a sea of empty parking spaces. One day in the not-too-distant future, they say, this space will be filled with a $2 billion mixed-use development known as Dallas Midtown.

Bit by bit, the North Dallas mall will disappear — not tomorrow, not in six months, but sooner than later. The Becks will announce Tuesday that in its place will be about 1.5 million square feet of retail storefronts, restaurants, residential units, office towers and even a high-rise hotel with condo towers.

On Monday, Beck Ventures bought most of Valley View for an undisclosed price from Miami-based LNR Partners, which took possession of the mall in 2010 when its owner, Macerich Co., couldn’t pay off its $125 million note. The Becks purchased the mall and the space occupied by J.C. Penney, and they expect to close on the Dillard’s space within 30 days. They also bought some properties along Montfort Drive and Alpha Road, including Chuck E. Cheese and Sportsplex, an indoor athletic complex.

“This has the ability to be a renaissance,” said Scott Beck, president of the family business. Later, he will refer to what he sees as “an urban village.” The Becks mention The Shops at Legacy and even the Bishop Arts District when discussing their ideas.

The Becks take turns pointing to the lush greenery just beyond the concrete developments, the downtown Dallas skyline visible in the distance and even Cowboys Stadium, its white dome gleaming in the horizon. They think Dallas Midtown, bordered by LBJ and Preston and Montfort and Alpha, is the true city center.

“People can live, they can work, they can play and have access on LBJ, Central Expressway and the toll road to get to airport, downtown, anywhere,” said Jeff, who garnered his reputation as the developer of Trophy Club. “We’re sitting in the center of Dallas, and were tired of seeing this development escaping the confines of the Dallas community, going out to the suburbs. Now we can capture those tax dollars and keep them in the city.”

For the last two years, Valley View has been managed by Jones Lang LaSalle — and there hasn’t been much of a mall to manage. Save for a few familiar brand names, among them Foot Locker and Bath & Body Works and the AMC movie theater, Valley View is mostly a ghost town. Many of the stores that do remain have names that sound like phony monikers from movies set in malls: Brow Art, Chinese Avenue and Mo Fashions.

Long gone are the days of Sound Town, the Skateboard Shop, Waldenbooks, At Ease, McCord’s, the Game Chest and Farrell’s — among Valley View’s myriad destinations for those who came of age in North Dallas. The mall and much of the area around it looks as it did in the 1970s; what isn’t barren is faded or worn out.

“It really is an area that meets all those terrific ideas about redevelopment,” said Dallas City Council member Linda Koop. “I think this area has some of the highest potential in the city, if not the entire metroplex.”

So does Mayor Mike Rawlings, who’s spoken with the Becks about their plans.

“Dallas Midtown is an important component to the economic vitality of North Dallas,” Rawlings said. “It will offer new high-rise Class A office space with mixed-use shopping but will also serve as an important linkage in the redevelopment extending west to the tollway.”

Sears, which was there before the mall, will stay in its space for now. And the investment group currently in possession of the former Macy’s space is, according to sources, in the process of selling to another property owner.

The Becks say Sears hopes to move closer to Preston and J.C. Penney wants to build a new kind of signature storefront. The rendering provided by the Becks shows the AMC theater remaining. On top of that, they say, you will see all the signs of “a walkable pedestrian-oriented urban village — apartments above retail, a grocery store, a hotel.”

But for now, Valley View isn’t going anywhere. Scott, who insists that the mall is about 55 to 65 percent filled — if you include the theater and anchor department stores — said Beck Ventures will immediately begin working to fill the mall with tenants, all of whom would be transferred to the new outdoor complex once it begins taking shape.

“Over time there will be repositioning with the tenants as the ultimate vision is brought together,” he said.

LBJ is being transformed into managed toll lanes and will spend the next three years — at least — jammed up between Stemmons Freeway and Central Expressway. And the Becks will need to bring the other area stakeholders into the fold to map out a master plan for the entire area — not just the 60 or so acres the Becks are acquiring, but the 400 acres that make up the area between Valley View and the Galleria.

“The city’s feeling about the whole area is that we really would like to see a redevelopment that extends from the Galleria to Preston Road,” says Karl Zavitkovsky, head of the city of Dallas’ Office of Economic Development.

The Becks say they will eventually ask the city for help paying for the redevelopment, but they aren’t sure how. Zavitkovsky says several possibilities are out there, including creation of a tax increment financing district.