On Wednesday, the full council will get that economic development update that never made it to committee two weeks ago (time was not on its side). Which is just as well: When we spoke two weeks ago, I'd completely forgotten to ask Karl Zavitkovsky, head of the Office of Economic Development, about one of the so-called "opportunity highlights" buried toward the back, which so happens to deal with a certain dying mall located at LBJ Freeway and Preston Road:
Reposition Valley View area to compete with suburbs in corporate and retail site selection race.
So I called Zavitkovsky this morning and asked if he knew something we didn't following last summer's chat with Greg Maloney, president and CEO for Jones Lang LaSalle Retail, which was appointed by the court to act as receiver for Valley View Center when it fell back into the hands of the lender group.
Nope, not at all, says Zavitkovsky. Far as he knows, Maloney and Co. are still out there trying to find tenants for the mall, nothing more. But the city's concerned that the area's going to waste, growing "rotten," and that it's time to give it a proper going-over -- especially since, sooner than later, the LBJ Express construction's going to make it even more of an afterthought for, oh, a good five years.
"Our feeling is that the entire block, from what was the Chevrolet dealership all the way down Preston, plus that rotten residential behind that, is prime urban redevelopment space -- not necessarily being a mall," he says. "It's prime space, something we feel that major players will look at. So we just wanted to highlight it. We're just looking at it from a planning perspective, and we identified it as an important piece of property. You have two anchors gone, in-line space in receivership, so you have a lot of property in play. This could be a major opportunity."
Says the head of Eco Dev, the LBJ construction will play a major factor in the fate of Valley View -- and allow, just maybe, for reconfiguring some of the access points in and around the mall and adjoining piece of property.
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"It'll be going on for the next five years, so if somebody does do something, if you were looking at timing, that timing might be good," he says. "I don't know if the pieces will come together or not, but the real estate has some potential. That whole corner at 635 and the Tollway is extremely strategic, and you have the potential to create connectivity with the Galleria, which isn't there now.
"This has nothing to do with Jones Lang LaSalle's plans, whatever they are. They're just trying to do their job in terms of marketing the property. And we, as a city, are very interested and would look at it as an urban redevelopment opportunity. But there isn't anything concrete."
Maloney, incidentally, is out of the office and unavailable all week, says his assistant. But he insisted last summer there were no plans to raze the mall. Question is: Have those plans changed? And if so, is that what the city wants? At which point our conversation turned to Prestonwood Town Center.
"I think the issue, or the opportunity there, is who the new owner is," Zavitkovsky says. "You need somebody with significant resources and a vision. In the case of Prestonwood, Archon came in and they had a vision of what they wanted to do and had the resources to accomplish that, and that was done without public sector support. Valley View is a prime location. I don't know how the numbers will shake out, and it depends on what someone's redevelopment vision is. We're very interested in it because of its redevelopment potential and don't know what, if any, participation the public sector will have. But we're very interested in the way it's redeveloped."