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What Happened During the Last Days of Valley View?

The remainder of Valley View Mall will be rubble by mid-month. But the path to clearing the property was just as messy as the path to its development.
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Valley View Mall, shortly before it caught fire for a second time last month. Bethany Erickson

This story was first published at on 4/7, and was updated on 4/8 to reflect a third fire at the location.

By the middle of April, the remaining portion of Valley View Mall should be a pile of rubble. Before the summer is out, its debris will be carted off to landfills. And then, owner Scott Beck says, he just might be ready to finally start developing more than 100 acres that once was home to one of the region’s most popular malls.

But getting to that point hasn’t been easy, and the last year of the mall’s existence has been marked by fires, trespassers, and, according to Dallas police records, dozens of incidents that range from open-air drug sales to burglary and theft.

Through interviews and city documents, we’re tracing the last few months of the once-popular mall that turned into an eyesore and a threat to public safety in North Dallas. This story includes an on-the-record interview with Beck, as well as, for the first time, his legal team’s written rebuttals to the city’s claims that company inadequately secured the site before a fire that injured two firefighters.

Much of the mall was demolished in 2019 after the city sued Beck and his father, Jeff, to force them to pull the vacant structure down. The only thing that remained was the shell of the food court and the connected AMC Theater, which hung on for a few years as the mall’s lone tenant. Then came the pandemic. Movie theaters closed, and by January 2022, AMC shuttered its Valley View location. Beck was then ready to begin demolition.

The path from three-story ruins of a movie theater to rubble has been fraught with disagreements, going back to 2013 to when the city first envisioned what it called the Valley View-Galleria Area Plan. That became Midtown, and now is known as the Dallas International District. (Beck insists that the area is still Midtown.)

The sorry matter culminated in Dallas police Chief Eddie Garcia declaring the property a Habitual Criminal Property—an action bookended by fires started in the vacant mall. The last fire in March sent two Dallas firefighters to the hospital. The city responded by forcing demolition to begin.

Beck said that not long after AMC vacated, he met with Dallas City Councilwoman Jaynie Schultz, who represents the district in which Valley View Mall sits. The two not only have different recollections of that meeting, they also have different dates for when it took place.

Beck says he approached the city and Schultz to collaborate on getting the demolition done. An appeal to the city regarding the habitual property designation indicates that the meeting was on April 17, 2022.

 “AMC moves out, and within 30 or 45 days, I requested a meeting to go down and sit down with Jaynie and talk to her about how we can get the mall down in an expeditious fashion,” Beck said. “I said, ‘You know, look, this is not an easy process that we have to go through because of the asbestos that’s in the building to get it taken down. The only way to expedite this process is to actually have a coordinated effort with the city to get the building down.’

“And her comment to me was, ‘We’re not interested in helping you at all. Unless, as a quid pro quo, you agree to put Section 8 housing on the property.,’” he said. “She wants Section 8 affordable housing on the property. And I’m like, ‘We’re not doing that.’”

Schultz has a different recollection. According to her calendar, she met with Beck on April 11, 2022, to discuss the Valley View asbestos abatement. She says she did not bring up Section 8 housing because it would not have been appropriate for that parcel of land. Section 8 vouchers are used to help individuals and families with little or no income find housing through the use of vouchers. In the past, cities have created entire federally-subsidized multifamily projects, but more recently, the trend is toward mixed-income housing that offers units at market rate, middle-income (or workforce) rate, and sometimes very low-income rate.

“Why would I take the most valuable piece of land in all of North Texas and put one single kind of housing that doesn’t even produce income?” she asked. “The whole concept of me requiring federally subsidized housing in a $5 billion development is absurd.”

As Beck met with the city to get help paying for the demolition, city documents indicate that the abandoned husk of the mall became a magnet for vandals, vagrants, and crime. Beck said that the size of the land made it difficult to secure.

“We had fencing around it, and we have patrols, but it’s a hundred acres, and the reality is is that it was quite clear to us when AMC moved out that it was time to tear the building down,” he said.

Dallas police responded to 56 calls to the mall in 2022. There were seven Youtube videos filmed inside the mall over the last 12 months, with most of those coming in the last six months. Two were filmed in the last three months.

D Magazine reported on one of those videos in November. That prompted the City Attorney’s Office to send the Becks a letter demanding the mall’s demolition. The city set a deadline of December 1 to begin asbestos abatement and January 1 to have all the demolition permits in place. That demand letter also required that Beck secure and inspect all entry points to the mall regularly and that the entire mall be demolished by June 1. That same letter cited 10 code violations.

On February 13, the mall caught fire for the first time. Eleven days later, Chief Garcia notified the Becks of his intent to designate the mall as a habitual criminal property. In that documentation, the department listed five “abatable criminal activities” within the last year, including trespassing, possession of a controlled substance, unlawful carrying of a weapon, and criminal mischief. The notice also pointed out five other instances in 2021 that also fell into that “abatable criminal activities” category, which meant that the property owner could have acted to avoid their occurence.

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A second fire on March 16 at Valley View Mall injured two firefighters. Tom Erickson

A subsequent meeting to give the Becks a chance to rebut in early March didn’t change things. “The designation is final, although the owner does have an opportunity to appeal the designation to the City’s Permit and License Appeal Board,” a city spokesperson said. “Based on DPD’s investigation of the habitual criminal property designation, it is the City’s position that the property owner has failed to implement sufficient measures to prevent unauthorized entry to the property.”

Beck maintains that the issues with crime in the remains of the building boiled down to four things: the city refusing to be cooperative, copper thieves targeting the structure, the size of the property, and Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot’s early edict regarding prosecuting crimes that were for thefts under $750. 

That refrain was repeated in the Becks’ response to the city regarding the habitual criminal property designation. In their response, which is dated March 22, they said on many occasions, their hired security would “show live camera footage to responding officers where there may have been countless thieves present, none of which Dallas police would be permitted to interfere with, arrest, or evict from the property.”

The letter to the city insisted that the Becks had done everything they could to secure the property, including lights, cameras, fencing, and blockades. “Specifically, since 2019 and currently still in effect, the city of Dallas and the Dallas Police Department are continuously instructed not to prosecute theft of items valued at less than $750, which has been been a mandate from the District Attorney’s Office,” the letter said.

Not quite. When he took office in 2019, Creuzot announced that his office would not prosecute thefts of personal items under $750 that were stolen out of need. In numerous reports on that decision, Creuzot made it clear that the edict was meant to address the theft of items like food, diapers, and baby formula. Not copper.

Anyway, Creuzot rescinded the policy last November, instead allowing prosecutors use their own discretion. The previous edict had no impact on crime. Meantime, the Dallas Police Department said its stance had always been to “make arrests when appropriate.”

The Becks also question whether Dallas police are assigning every crime at that abandoned site to their company. Different parts of the property are owned by three different developers: Beck Ventures, Seritage Growth Properties, and LTF Real Estate.

According to city and state documents, as well as documentation provided by Beck, permits for demolition were obtained last December. Beck says that an asbestos abatement company began work “almost immediately” and was nearly finished when a second fire broke out on March 16.

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Demolition on Valley View Mall began in March. Bethany Erickson

The day of the second fire, Schultz made it clear that she had run out of patience with the Becks‘ approach to securing the site.

“The doors were open, the fences were down, and there was little to no security,” she said. “I saw it for myself. They completely failed to abide by the agreement. They have failed not only our city, but they put the lives of firefighters at risk, and two were injured.”

A third fire broke out on April 7, shortly after 11 p.m.

Documents from the State Department of Health Services corroborate the abatement, as does the city. Because the fire further compromised the structure, Lindamood Demolition moved up the timeline to begin pulling the building down at the city’s request. It opted to do a “wet” demolition that would keep any remaining asbestos particles from entering the air. Any unremediated portion of the mall would go to a separate landfill for hazardous materials.

The Becks are citing the impending demolition in their appeal of the habitual criminal property designation. “We maintain a strong belief that once the structure has been demolished in its entirety, the potential for future incidents, given that all shared a common link to copper thieves and vandals, is naturally and logically rendered moot,” the Becks letter said.

By this summer, Beck says he feels fairly confident that he’ll finally have a piece of land he can develop. The sanitary sewer line connection to the city’s line is complete, and the storm line work continues. Once that is finished, the 100 acres will be considered ready for development.

For a project that’s been in the works since 2012, a more rapid pace seems promising, but given the acrimonious path to get to shovel-ready, Beck still sounds wary.

“I mean, it’s really dependent on the market,” he said. “If you have a partnership with a municipality, things happen quicker, too, and when you don’t things take decades.”

And it has already taken 10 years to get to this point.

Author

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson

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Bethany Erickson is the senior digital editor for D Magazine. She's written about real estate, education policy, the stock market, and crime throughout her career, and sometimes all at the same time. She hates lima beans and 5 a.m. and takes SAT practice tests for fun.

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