Demolition has resumed on the old Valley View Mall in Dallas after two years of delays on the project on I-635 LBJ Freeway between Preston and Montfort.
And the developer who plans to replace it with the Midtown development has secured financing to move forward without subsidies or tax breaks from the City of Dallas.
"It's actually not only the original vision, it's actually going to be better than the original vision," said developer Scott Beck.
The original plan unveiled seven years ago was a whole new grid of streets and 25 square blocks of new urban development replacing the 100 acre mall site and its vast parking lots. The plan included a large park with high rise office, retail and residential buildings around it.
Beck said all of that is still included but now, Lifetime Fitness has joined the project as a partner to develop the first ever 'Lifetime Village.' It will be a combination of fitness center, collaborative office space and an 18 story luxury apartment structure.
"It will be the first of its kind," Beck said. "It will be the largest live, work, play environment, in the country."
A ground breaking was held in June 2017 for what was to have been the start of Valley View demolition. Since then Lee Kleinman, the Dallas City Council Member who represents the site, was upset with the lack of progress.
"I'm done being mad about it because I'm seeing progress," he said. "That's all I really wanted and that's what they wanted, too. The goal was the same. The mall is torn down and get a new development going."
The city offered Beck $35 million in tax increment financing support in return for reserving 20 percent of the new apartment units for low to moderate income tenants.
Beck said the city money for new streets and other features was to be paid back over many years instead of upfront and he could not make the affordable housing commitment.
"These city affordability things work really well if you can get the city subsidy up front. If the city subsidies come up front, then you can afford to put those things in place. So it's not really a matter of not wanting to do it, you can't get them financed," Beck said.
There could be affordable housing included in the future phases of the project Beck said.
"The first vertical development will start happening in 2020," Beck said.
The AMC Theater on the site will remain open the next two years as a new AMC Theater is built beside it.
Zoning for the area requires at least 8 percent open space so the redevelopment will include far more parks or landscaped areas than the old mall.
Beck said asphalt from the vast Valley View parking lots will be recycled for the road bed of new streets.
Beck's firm is the largest owner of the former mall property, but two other owners are also involved with corners of the project.
"We're all working in concert with the City of Dallas and all together to really recognize this vision we've been working on for the past seven years," Beck said.
Kleinman said the Midtown development is an opportunity to compete with the suburbs to lure large corporate relocations to the City of Dallas.
"There's enough here to attract more than one corporate campus. You could attract multiple corporations here," Kleinman said. "If you just look at the growing population in North Texas, this is kind of the center of the universe."
There is also a plan for an automated people mover system to connect the Midtown project with a planned Cotton Belt DART Rail station nearby.