After five and a half years, the grand experiment at Valley View Center will be coming to a close at the end of this month — partially at least. Many of the vendors and artists have begun packing or have already moved to new locations; demolition crews have been spotted at the former Macy’s; and the mall’s final Midtown ArtWalk was held Feb. 18, which doubled as a liquidation sale.
“We’ve had so many people leave in the last six to eight months. When the Foot Locker moved out that was pretty much what put [an end] to everything here because at that point, aside from the movie theater, nobody was coming on out here,” said Paul Riddell, owner of the The Texas Triffid Ranch, a gallery of carnivorous plants. “That was at the point where things started breaking down [and] they weren’t particularly worried about fixing it because demolition is impending.”
On Jan. 23, Riddell learned that he would have to vacate his space at Valley View by the end of February, along with the rest of the tenants on the first floor, as their leases were being terminated. Riddell's wife had called Beck Ventures to request maintenance when she was told the doors to the mall would be barricaded and demolition started on March 1.
However, Riddell said some shops and the AMC are likely to remain open until this summer, when Scott Beck of Beck Ventures — the company that will turn the land into a mixed-use development called Dallas Midtown — told the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce demolition will begin in full.
“We had gone a year and a half with, ‘OK, we’re definitely going to be tearing everything down and then it gets delayed,’” Riddell said during the final ArtWalk. “[We were told] for instance that we were definitely going to be moving out at the end of 2015, then the end of 2016. The only thing that was a surprise about it was the fact that you had a lot people that were gearing up for spring [and] summer shows, and then this kicked in.”
When the ArtWalk was first organized in June 2012 by Doug and Kiki Winters, co-directors of Gallery at Midtown, the mall was injected with a surge of vitality every third Saturday. More than 150 artists displayed their wares to hundreds if not thousands of visitors, including Riddell and his wife. The event offered snacks, wine, jugglers, live music and bounce houses during its peak.
“One night we happened to be in the vicinity and realized, ‘OK, big crowd. This is the largest crowd we’ve seen at the mall in years,’ so we came in and that’s how we found out about ArtWalk,” Riddell said.
This new community was further bolstered by small business owners who opened everything from holistic gem shops, to a World War II museum, dance studios and a Taekwondo dojo. By 2014 the mall was at 90 percent capacity, 60 percent higher than when Beck Ventures purchased Valley View in 2011. But the last ArtWalk was a far cry from what it once was.
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“If you had been out here a year ago you would’ve seen we had a nice vibrant crowd out here, not just attendees but all of the other artists, and one of the biggest things that killed it was all of the hype last year about, ‘Oh my god, the mall is coming down,’” Riddell said. “The moment they heard ‘The mall is coming down,’ they were terrified of even the possibility of coming out here.”
Most visitors on Saturday made beelines toward the mall’s sole remain draw, AMC Valley View, while the few remaining galleries offered crackers and plastic cups of wine to curious moviegoers and the remnants of the ArtWalk’s once thriving scene. Artists busied themselves by packing their things in between conversations with the occasional passerby.
Yet in a few corners, a spark of the old ArtWalk could be found. The Texas Triffid Ranch, Skypony Studio and Gallery at Midtown warmly greeted guests to their galleries for the last time. Everyone seemed to come in and leave smiling.
“It was time for us to go ahead and make a change anyway, and it’s better to go ahead and do this now than to wait another six to eight months, have everything really go sour and definitely not enjoy the move,” Riddell said.