Council Approves Purchase of ‘First Step’ For Dallas Midtown Park

It’s been a discussion point for more than a couple of city council candidates, but the city has made a new move toward anchoring cultural offerings and an eventual park near the site of the old Valley View Mall.

The Dallas City Council voted Wednesday to approve the purchase of the Prism at Midtown, located at 5580 Peterson Lane, for use in part as a cultural center for North Dallas, and as the first step toward a vast park planned for the Midtown development.

Assistant City Manager Joey Zapata told the council that they anticipated that the property, which consists of a two-story, multi-tenant office building with about 53,730 square feet of rentable area sitting on a little more than 1.6 acres, would generate income that would pay to maintain it.

The net income for the property has been positive for many years, he said, and the city is retaining the same property manager “to continue doing the good work to forecast expenses and manage the vacancies, and continue to keep it so it maintains positive revenue.”

That revenue, Zapata said, can be set aside in the parks budget in a multi-year fund to help offset any of the maintenance costs.

“So the long and the short of it is that we’re planning for the future to be able to maintain it without any additional costs to the general fund,” he said.

The office building was built in 1983, according to real estate records, and will cost $5,667,000 total, coming from a combination of bond money, Valley View-Galleria Open Space Fund, and the Mall Area Redevelopment TIF District Fund.

It’s also one of five parcels of land the city will need to aquire to create the 20-acre central park planned for the area, a city memo about the proposed purchase written by city chief of economic development and neighborhood services Dr. Eric Anthony Johnson, who called the purchase “an important and catalytic first step,” said.

“In the near-to-medium term (i.e. in the first two-to-four years), it is anticipated that the City will simply manage the property, allowing the existing office tenants to complete their remaining lease terms,” Johnson said. “During that time, the City may also evaluate the feasibility of establishing an International Cultural Center as an interim municipal use of the subject property.

“In the medium-to-long term, the existing structure may be demolished for the development of park improvements or may be repurposed for park uses as determined through public input and Council District needs,” he continued.

The purchase of the property is forward momentum on a project that been slow-going.

More than one city council candidate (particularly in Districts 11 and 13) have referred to the partially demolished Valley View Mall site — which is slated to become Dallas Midtown — as a “wasteland.”

The development went before the city council in 2013. In 2015, Todd Jorgenson, who was then editor of People Newspapers, reported on the plans for the Valley View site before demolition was even scheduled.

“It’s going to reshape that whole area of Dallas,” former State Rep. (and former Dallas city councilperson) Linda Koop said at the time. “The entire area there kind of stayed stagnant for a while. There were multiple challenges. The neighbors identified that area as one that they would like to see revitalized.”

It would be 2017 before ground would break and demolition began.

“From Klyde Warren to Vitruvian to Arbor Hills, we all recognize the power of parks as game changes,” then-Dallas Midtown Park Foundation Advisory Member and District 11 CPC Commissioner (and current District 11 candidate) Jaynie Schultz told D Magazine. “The 400-plus acre development to be built here will change Dallas in ways we cannot imagine now, just as no one foresaw the full impact of the parks I mentioned a moment ago.”

In 2020, we reported on developer Scott Beck’s vision for a new neighborhood that is walkable to shopping, dining, and entertainment, with a new Dallas ISD school, and a 20-acre park.

“And then as you get towards Montfort, there’s a new park that’s basically situated between our property, a main boulevard, and the Galleria,” Beck said. “And that new park is the Midtown Park, which will be four times the size of Klyde Warren.”

At Wednesday’s council meeting, equity was also discussed.

“There’s no question that this is needed,” said District 12 councilperson Cara Mendelsohn. “It’s needed for the quality of life of our residents in North Dallas who beyond a library, don’t have any cultural centers in D13, D11, or D12.”

“When we talk about equity I think one of the things that we always think is that equity is only for the south, or the west, and not for the north — and this is a place where we are actually not equitable in the city of Dallas,” agreed District 6 councilmember Omar Narvaez. “We don’t have cultural facilities in the northern part of the city once you leave the Bath House (district) in East Dallas. Once you go further north, there is really nothing left for anybody to go and see. This is a really exciting thing that’s gonna happen.”

Screengrab

Wednesday council members spent most of their discussion time praising their colleague Lee Kleinman on pushing the projects related to the Valley View and Galleria development through.

“We’ve talked about Valley View for almost a decade, and now it’s coming together, I do want to thank chairman Kleinman for his hard work and staying at it,” said District 8 councilmember Tennell Atkins, who added that projects like Midtown ultimately bring in more property tax revenue for the city.

Councilmember Carolyn King Arnold also praised Kleinman.

“Really, this started as an equity project back when we didn’t call it equity back when it started,” she laughed. “Just in the sense that you have council members working together is where we need to go moving forward.

“We’re going to have to … put on those big boy and big girl shoes and do what is right,” she added. “I commend and appreciate and applaud Mr. Kleinman for continuing to fight for the cultural experience I too have to fight for because I’m in the southern sector.”

“It’s not the very end for you, but it’s getting closer to the end of your eight years, and I know that you’ve advocated for this for a very long time and I just want to thank you for not taking your eye off of the ball on this one, Narvaez said. “We’re down to the last couple minutes of the fourth quarter, but you scored the touchdown.”

Kleinman, while appreciative of the kind words, said the work is only really just beginning on the Midtown development.

“There are multi-year projects to bring to fruition, and I just want to encourage you and any newcomers to the council to embrace projects that are in process, even take credit for them, but keep them moving along,” he said. “It takes years at this city to pass successes, and we’ve had many and will continue to have many more across the city and in every district.”

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at bethany.erickson@peoplenewspapers.com.

2 thoughts on “Council Approves Purchase of ‘First Step’ For Dallas Midtown Park

  • April 29, 2021 at 12:21 pm
    Permalink

    Any forward movement re:Midtown is welcome. From an outsider’s view that hasn’t paid close attention to details, the project seems to have stalled a bit since the mall teardown. Hopefully, we start seeing some buildings go up here shortly. Oddly, the gas station going up just north of midtown is zooming along.

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Matthew Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *