Casa Linda Plaza, the shopping center on Garland Road and Buckner Boulevard in East Dallas, is getting a makeover by its owners. Construction for the redo started this week, causing many residents to become aware of and upset by the plans which include the removal of five mature cypress elm trees.
Developer Edens, a private real estate investment trust focused on retail properties, purchased the Casa Linda Plaza in 2015. Managing Director Tom Kiler says Edens is a long-term holder of real estate and holds about $6.5 billion worth of real estate across 120 properties across the U.S.
Edens plans to revitalize Casa Linda Plaza, which spans three of the four hard corners of Buckner and Garland, into a more pedestrian-friendly center that encourages patrons to spend more time there. To do so, Edens is planning (and has already received city approval) to narrow the driving aisles and reconfigure some parking spaces. The center has 508 parking spaces today, and will have 484 spaces following renovations.
Kiler says current driving aisles are 40 feet wide in the entrance on Garland (near Starbucks), causing many drivers to speed through the area as a way to cut through the stoplight at Garland. “It’s 15 feet wider than it should be, which makes it dangerous. We’re trying to get people to slow down because if the parking lot feels dangerous, you don’t want to spend time there,” Kiler says.
By shrinking driving aisles, Edens will add more space for pedestrians along the inner sidewalks, and also give more room the live oak trees lining the sidewalks to growth. Kiler says Edens has also hired Dallas-based Studio Outside Landscape Architects to “help us understand how to make [existing] trees healthier. Currently, the live oaks don’t really have the space to grow the way they’re supposed to.” Edens is also planting 34 new trees on the property and preserving approximately 25 existing trees.
A petition on change.org to “Save our historic Casa Linda Plaza trees from demolition” already has more than 2,500 signatures. Edens says its answering all emails and voicemails from residents who have questions about the renovation plans, and has plans to meet in person with the residents behind the petition. “We will listen to everyone, and I hope people listen to us and allow us to explain what we’re doing,” Kiler says. “How that resolves itself, I’m not 100 percent sure yet.” Plans to remove the trees are not yet scheduled for a specific date.
Dallas City Councilman Mark Clayton posted on his Facebook page about the trees on July 9, saying, in part, “There is always the fear when a tree is removed that everything is going to be scraped and the only thing left is concrete. The City has a tree mitigation plan and they are doing more than the City even requires them to do.”
Kiler says Edens, which also owns Preston Royal Village (home to Tom Thumb and the new Eatzi’s) and Uptown Plaza (home to Morton’s The Steakhouse) was initially attracted to Casa Linda Plaza for several reasons.
“We’re big believers in East Dallas,” Kiler says. “We think it’s a place with a different personality than many parts of Dallas. It has great diversity, and a ton of opportunity. The [retail] offerings there don’t currently match where the community is in several ways.”
The first phase of renovation should be completed this fall.