Dallas has plenty of strip malls. Give us more ‘mini Klyde Warren’ parks
Perhaps you’ve never been to a mall near Hillcrest and Arapaho Streets in Far North Dallas. Nevertheless, the old Hillcrest Village would be known.
The boring 1980s retail strip, with its beige, rectangular cookie-cutter buildings and an ocean of mostly empty parking lots, is a staple of the American suburban landscape. You might just want to go to one when you’re craving a Starbucks drink.
But the new Hillcrest Village makes an impression. A dying mall just a few years ago. Now the development has been called “Mini-Klyde-Warren-Park”, as our colleague Sarah Blaskovich reported in December. That’s because the city of Dallas, in partnership with retail developer Shop Cos. The mall has been revitalized with chic restaurants and has removed the central parking lot and a two-story building to create a 1.5-acre park with a playground.
This dense corner of Dallas, which borders Richardson, has little open space and it has been difficult for the city to purchase parkland because land is scarce and valuable, said Calvert Collins-Bratton, president of the Dallas Park Board. Shop Cos. Bought the mall in 2018, demolished one of the buildings, and threw the land and central parking lot into town for $ 1.4 million.
The city-owned park, called Hillcrest Village Green, cost an additional $ 4.2 million to build and made a big splash on Saturday. This open space should serve as a template for others in the commercial real estate game, and we hope more developers will take note.
We understand that building this park required a confluence of favorable factors. Shop Cos. Co-founder David Sacher has an emotional connection with the mall because he grew up in the area. He and the main developer of the shop, Daniel Fuller, approached the city with their idea for the mall. The city paid for the green spaces with funds from a $ 262 million park bond package approved by voters in 2017. Dallas also donated $ 1.5 million in economic development funds to give the mall a makeover. Wide terraces, trees and benches have replaced sidewalks and old, narrow sidewalks.
“It’s like a unicorn,” Collins-Bratton told us. “It took a private developer who saw the value of parking spaces that are working with the city to make this happen.”
Sacher said he and his colleagues took inspiration from California’s Malibu Country Mart, a Mediterranean-style mall with trendy shops and restaurants on manicured lawns, inviting picnic areas, and a colorful playground. He told us we don’t see any more projects like renovating Hillcrest Village because developers are usually not ready to demolish revenue-generating buildings to replace them with open space. He said eliminating parking spaces can also conflict developers with municipal parking requirements.
The pandemic was catastrophic for retailers and restaurants, but spaces like Hillcrest Village Green should be good for businesses and encourage families and friends to dine and spend time al fresco. Shop Cos. Has signed nearly 30 leases.
We urge cities to review their parking requirements and we encourage developers to be better neighbors. Even a small playground or pocket park can make a big difference for families.