If the city of Dallas has its way, the husk of Valley View Center Mall will be demolished and cleared by the end of July. City Hall has had enough of the ruins, which have become a magnet for vandals and urban explorers. A YouTube video last month showed the world how easy it was to get into what’s left of the mall—which is basically the food court and the entrance to the shuttered and abandoned AMC Theater—and how Valley View’s walls are now a canvas for spray paint and its floors are covered with smashed glass.
Assistant City Attorney Charlotta Riley sent a demand letter last month to owner Beck Ventures that details 10 code violations at the property. At the top of the list: objects or conditions that are “reasonably capable of causing injury to a person.” The city says the building is too easy to access, that its structural materials are rapidly degrading, that the roof is leaking or rotting, that metal posts are broken or missing, and that its disrepair makes it easy for “solid waste material” to accumulate. It’s also apparently full of asbestos, which isn’t great news for all the folks who have gone in and smashed things.
The city reserves the right to take Beck to court and ask a judge to levy $1,000 fines per violation per day if the owners don’t meet the city’s deadlines for demolition and asbestos remediation. An application filed with the state shows that asbestos abatement will begin on December 15 and is expected to take three months. The company expects demolition to begin March 16, 2023, and be complete by July 28.
(D broke the news last month, but Sharon Grigsby at the Dallas Morning News was first to report about the demand letter and the new date.)
The city at one point had more ambitious plans for the demolition. On November 18, Jill Haning, an executive assistant city attorney, told D, “It is our understanding that they have already gone through asbestos testing and are scheduled to start asbestos abatement next week, with demolition following in the next couple of weeks.” The city sent its notice letter later that day, detailing the code violations and threatening a lawsuit if the demolition and cleanup wasn’t done by June 1. The letter set an inspection date of June 5.
On December 1, Beck Ventures filed an asbestos abatement/demolition notification with the Texas Department of State Health Services that laid out a three-month timeline, which would put the full demolition and cleanup about two months later than what City Hall initially wanted. Riley says the city agrees with that timeline.
“The city’s goal is to gain compliance and if there is continued progress toward that goal, a reasonable variation of the timeline is unlikely to trigger immediate litigation,” she wrote in an email.
According to the application filed with the state, there are about 162,350 square feet of drywall, floor tile and mastic, mirror mastic, and 12 sinks that will need to be “abated, removed, and disposed of under the supervision of a licensed supervisor and consultant.”
The city has already taken Beck to court over this matter. Beck bought the property in 2012 and courted about $36 million in tax incentives from the city. But it missed its demolition deadline, and the city pulled out of the deal. The finger-pointing began: Beck alleged that the city had not fulfilled its end of the bargain by putting in sewer infrastructure. The city said that was Beck’s responsibility. In the meantime, the aging mall fell apart—and racked up thousands of dollars in code violations.
The city sued in 2019 and reached a settlement with Beck later that year. Asbestos abatement was supposed to begin on March 15, 2019, and wrap up by that September. Demolition of the remainder of the mall was supposed to begin June 30, 2019, and be complete by the end of the year. The settlement included a carveout for the portion that remains, because AMC still had a lease.
The theater closed in January of this year. It was the last remaining tenant, and the structure has only grown more decrepit.
Here’s the other thing: it’s not clear what Beck is actually going to do with the land. Councilwoman Jaynie Schultz, who represents the district, told me last month that Beck’s behavior over the years has led her to believe that “it’s a waste of time and effort to encourage any type of development” as long as they own the property. “I believe that they are simply land flippers,” she said.
The city includes Valley View in its 450-acre International District, which extends south to LBJ Freeway and includes the Galleria Dallas and its surrounding environs. Dallas ISD is bringing a STEAM school, the North Central Texas Council of Governments is throwing in $10 million for a driverless “people mover,” France just cut the ribbon on its trade office at the city-owned Prism at Midtown building near the Galleria, and Montfort Drive is getting a complete street makeover to benefit pedestrians.
Meantime, Beck is sitting tight on his land and still promising mixed use. The Valley View property is split between three owners: Beck, Seritage Growth Properties, and Toll Brothers. Seritage is selling its 17 acres, and Toll Brothers have begun filing paperwork to build something.
Beck hasn’t responded to repeated requests for comments. But he did speak to NBC 5’s Ken Kalthoff, who quoted the developer singing his same old song. Beck accused the city of “stalling” a large sanitary sewer line. City spokeswoman Jenna Carpenter says the last time Dallas invested in sewer infrastructure here was four years ago. That project, which increased sanitary capacity for the area, was completed in December 2018.
“The City’s pipeline construction across LBJ and south was completed in December 2018, but there could be private development contracts for developers to connect to the system,” she said.
Schultz says the pipeline that Beck is complaining about is really the responsibility of the developers “to handle larger flows from their properties.” That line would connect into what the city built in 2018. Those owners fought over whose responsibility it was, and the line was finally installed in the fall.
There are plenty questions about this prime piece of future real estate in North Dallas. And we can only see what’s in front of us. That’s a decaying mall and an owner who has missed his deadlines and faces legal action if he does so again.
Mark your calendars for July 28, 2023.