Dallas city and community leaders cheered Tuesday for the long awaited ground breaking of the Red Bird Development.
Its a mixed use project at the site of the former Southwest Center Mall, bounded by Highway 67, I-20, Westmoreland and Camp Wisdom Roads.
Developer Peter Brodsky plans to build new streets in the empty mall's vast parking lots to support new stores, restaurants and apartments. Around 100,000 square feet of the old mall structure will be removed to make way for it. Brodsky intends to open the second floor of the old mall for office space.
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"What we'd like to see a couple of years from now is a thousand people coming to work here every day," Brodsky said. "You’ll have 500 people living here. We’ll have a hotel here. And that’s really what you have to do with these developments because just the big box retail doesn’t draw people. You have to give people other reasons to come."
It was the latest of several announcements over the years for revival of the Mall.
No one was more excited about this one than neighbor Edna Pemberton.
"You're going to make me cry," she said, when asked about her long fight to save the place.
Dallas City Councilman Tennell Atkins recalled how Pemberton contacted him years ago when there was a threat of turning off the lights.
"She said, 'Councilman Atkins, the mall is going to go dark,'" Atkins said.
He delayed a vacation to help her fight to keep the power on.
Eight years ago, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings made big promises about promoting Southern Dallas growth in one of his original campaign events at the declining mall.
"But then I had to live by those words and so we have worked hard to try to deliver that," Rawlings said.
Rawlings recalled how he once flew to New Jersey to persuade previous owners of part of the mall site to sell.
But Pemberton said past talk of reviving the old shopping mall missed the mark.
"You've got to cast the vision. You got to make it clean, make it clear. You got to change it so folks get excited. The same vision wouldn't work," she said.
Brodsky had the new vision, to use all of the mall site and create a new destination for existing residents.
"Middle class, upper middle class families have lived here for a long time," he said. "The problem is the market hasn't provided the amenities."
A new public park is now planned where the ground breaking was held in a parking lot north of the former Macy’s store. Renderings show the park surrounded by new stores and restaurants.
Brodsky plans to level the mall site and remove 100,000 square feet of the old buildings to make way for the new development.
Local investors have been recruited for the $160 million project. The City of Dallas invested $22 million that will help build the new streets.
"We don't need people from North Dallas. What we need is the people from this community to have an opportunity to live work and play in their community," Brodsky said.
Edna Pemberton said the new development will be better than the old mall once was.
"Much better," she said. "As the people have changed, the vision has changed. The people are encouraged."
The first phase of construction will be underway over the next two years.