In some parts of North Texas, new shopping centers spring up all the time. For the Red Bird area of Dallas, a city council vote is scheduled Wednesday to support the renovation of a 40-year-old shopping center with public money.
Square 67 on Red Bird Lane between South Hampton Road and U.S. Highway 67 has crumbling parking lots that show the center's age.
According to city records, new owners recently purchased the property for $11 million and plan $3 million worth of improvements. The city will be asked Wednesday to contribute $1.4 million in economic development bond money approved by voters in 2017.
"It's going to be one of the hottest areas, not just in southern Dallas but in the city of Dallas," neighborhood city councilman Casey Thomas said.
Michael Blackmon runs Lisa's Soul Food Café at Square 67 with his mom, Lisa Davis.
Blackmon said the new owners have already started to make improvements.
"Now the management of the property is really keeping the property up. And it's been a godsend to have Fitness Connection come in," Blackmon said.
The new Fitness Connection gym opened with no city support. It has attracted new traffic to the shopping center.
Thomas said it demonstrates that Square 67 can be successful.
"The owner of this center has had a number of community meetings to get feedback on what they would like to see here, and so the renovation he has planned is something that they're excited about," Thomas said. "It will be night and day."
Lisa's customer Maxine Wiley said she has been visiting the restaurant for years. She also works with a non-profit group that supports schools in the Red Bird area.
"And it's good news to know some investments are going in to build up the shopping centers," Wiley said. "It just shows that they're working and we haven't been forgotten south of the Trinity. And I think that's a good thing. Grow South!"
Grow South is the name of Mayor Mike Rawlings' signature economic development program.
Councilman Thomas has pursued a program of his own called "Rebirth of Red Bird."
Thomas said better retail options will compliment good housing and schools already available in the neighborhood.
"We want this to be a model of what development can be like," Thomas said. "And so we're glad to see this. And this is just the beginning."
Charles Lucenay, the new shopping center developer, said renovation work could begin quickly if the Dallas City Council approves the investment Wednesday.