The New Valley View Will Be Like Uptown, With a Gondola

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The last time I set foot in Valley View Center three or four years ago, it was eerily reminiscent of a post-apocalyptic zombie flick, and not the old-school kind with the undead lurching forward with laughable slowness. The zombies that come to mind are the type that are puma-quick and would have no trouble overtaking their prey across the depopulated expanse of brown tile.

For at least the past year, a plan has been taking shape to transform the mall and its surroundings from dreary movie set into the thriving center of commerce it was 20 years ago. Commercial real estate developer Scott Beck purchased Valley View last year, envisioning the construction "centralized urban village."

The big reveal came today when Beck and city planners presented their grand vision for the Valley View area And "grand" might actually be an understatement. This is a $10 billion-plus development on 450 acres bounded by Preston Road, LBJ, the Tollway, and Alpha Road. We're talking 1,000 hotel rooms, 5,000 upscale apartments and condos, 4 million square feet of office space, plus generous amounts of space dedicated to entertainment and retail. Pretty much all that will remain is Sears, JC Penney, and the AMC theater, and those will all have new digs. There will be European-style "bullet trolleys," 20 acres of green space, and connection, via bike trails, to White Rock Lake.

The whole thing has been dubbed Dallas Midtown.

Beck says it is "a bit premature" to speculate on the details of the public-private partnership, but that it will be "developer driven." The city will likely kick in some money for infrastructure improvements, and there will probably be a TIF district to help cover some development cost, but the bulk of the funding will be sought out by Beck Ventures, which owns the 100 acres on which Valley View sits, and surrounding property owners.

To understand the full scope of the vision for Dallas Midtownwatch this video. It's a dizzying tour of a densely packed urban utopia, full of pedestrians and sunshine and relentless techno music. You'll also spot what Beck calls the project's "crown jewel": a gondola.

Yup. Riders will be conveyed to the Galleria by the type of suspended cable car typically reserved for amusement parks and scenic mountain towns. It seems like an odd thing to include in an urban setting, just as it seems odd to name an area north of LBJ "Midtown." But maybe that's what the people of the future will want.

Another quibble: The whole concept reeks vaguely of Victory Park, which is its own kind of urban dystopia, albeit one that's more Stepford Wives than 28 Days Later. That would still be quite an improvement, but one wonders if the redevelopment of Valley View wouldn't be better achieved more organically and on a smaller scale.

Beck, who predicts that businesses and people are poised to "rubber band" from the northern cities back to Dallas, prefers to compare it to another development. "It's a large vision," he says, "It's the equivalent to standing on top of the Crescent Hotel (in the 1980s) and not seeing what you see today in West Village and Uptown."

That will take two or three decades, and it might not look exactly like the renderings, but Beck is confident it will happen.

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