Saturday morning’s blaze at the old Valley View Mall has rightly lit a fire under city officials.
On Monday morning, the smell of smoke still lingering in the air, the city attorney’s office moved up by two months the deadline for owners to clean up and remove what’s left of the 1970s shopping center near LBJ Freeway and Preston Road.
In November, the city told developer Beck Ventures it had until July 28 to have the structure completely torn down and removed, or face going back to court. But after 50 firefighters spent four hours putting out two fires there, the city attorney’s office bumped up the demolition deadline to June 1, Dallas City Council member Jaynie Schultz told us.
They also demanded that Beck provide 24-hour security at the site, which has been a frequent hangout for the homeless and vandals.
“People risked their lives,” said Schultz, whose district includes the property. “Where is the corporate responsibility here?”
The “corporate” she is referring to is Beck, who did not immediately return a request for comment.
It’s true that Beck’s grand plans for its “Midtown” development, featuring shops, restaurants, office towers, a hotel and even a park, have fallen flat in the last decade. It’s less a beehive of activity and more of a rat’s nest and eyesore, and it’s been that way for years. Even the glossy architectural renderings of the project set up years ago at the site are sun-faded and in disrepair.
But the city isn’t without blame here, either. When the grand redevelopment plans clearly began to fall through years ago, the city dragged its feet on pressuring Beck and other property owners to clear and secure the site. Code violations racked up, and as far back as 2018, city officials called it “a substantial danger.”
Schultz, who formerly served on the City Plan Commission, said the city seemed willing to just let the property sit as an eyesore until late last year, when two urban explorers posted a 25-minute YouTube video of what they found in the mall. They rightly called it “Abandoned Dallas Mall is an Urban Hell.”
Perhaps it wasn’t just the widespread trash and vulgar graffiti that got the city’s attention after viewing the video, but also the Ouija board surrounded by a circle of blood. Whatever it was, “that is when the city upped its game, ” Schultz said.
Last weekend’s fire rightly caused them to up it again. “There is no question that code enforcement and the city attorney’s office are working together to make sure that we can use the most force that we have available under the law,” Schultz said.
We sure hope so. The entire area has lived with this dangerous magnet for all kinds of trouble far too long.
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