Tour of a Dinosaur Carcass: A Last Walk Through Valley View Mall

The last department store standing at Valley View Mall made its tired exit last week with barely a dying gasp. It was a quiet death. Sears, of course, has not exactly been a retail blockbuster for quite a while now. But it was the last rusty stake anchoring what was once the quintessential Dallas mall experience, a familiar mix of mid-level stores catering to a mid-level audience for a universal, if bland, shopping and social experience. There wasn't much to see in those final fire-sale days, just a few clusters of leftovers heaped together in the cavernous, empty store: some pipe wrenches; odd pieces of patio furniture; a rack of garish ties; bulk packages of discount underpants. The few shoppers poking around looked understandably disillusioned. Like most Americans, I hadn't walked through a conventional shopping mall in years. And I hadn't set foot in a Sears store in decades, even though the memory is indelible. When we were kids, my dad rousted us to hit the Sears every weekend, because what child wouldn't rather look at Craftsman tools than watch cartoons on Saturday morning? Just stepping through the door made me itch with boredom. Valley View itself has been on life support for years, yet it has fared better than many of its cookie-cutter contemporaries. Its robust location - North Dallas, but not the suburbs - created the incentive for what will be a phoenix-like rebirth, when the property is repurposed as Dallas Midtown, and updated-and-urbanized vision of the mixed-use development. Even in its waning years, it fared better than countless malls of identical genesis and layout, eking out a few years of afterlife as an artists' cooperative. Last week, though, it was just another dead mall, another dinosaur carcass. It had the gloomy feel of a lost civilization, like the movie set from the original Planet of the Apes. I was Charlton Heston.   Continue reading...

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