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The Sad View from Valley View

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When I was a kid, Valley View was my mall -- bought my first skateboard (a Powell-Peralta purchased at the stand beneath the escalators), my first album (KISS's Double Platinum at the Disc Records) and my first guitar (thanks, McCord's) there. But now it's a ghost of a ghost of its former self -- dozens of darkened spaces sitting next to struggling Mom-and-Pops hawking used video games and discounted leather jackets sitting next to a random assortment of chain stores that look out of place (Forever 21, Victoria's Secret, Man Alive, Gymboree, an about-to-close Waldenbooks).

A complex of Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force recruiting centers has set up shop on the second level, outside Sears; nearby, a Scientologist at a kiosk offers a stress test and a copy of Dianetics. And, near the food court, two young men from the Hare Krishna's TKG Academy near Fair Park sit behind portable tables and hand out copies of the Bhagavad Gita in exchage for a small donation. They say they've been there for two weeks, and that the landlord let them set up absolutely gratis.

The small-store merchants with whom I visited this afternoon all say the same thing: California-based Macerich, which purchased Valley View 13 years ago for around $85.5 million and debt, has been promising for a good year to restore the mall to its former glory with big-name anchors. Edward Coppola, Macerich's senior vice president and chief investment officer, said the same thing to The Dallas Morning News in March 2008: "Valley View is good real estate, and we think we can make it a lot better." (Macerich's spokesperson has yet to return Unfair Park's call.)

Yet not one big-name merchant has materialized since then, and smaller tenants continue to worry that doomsday approaches for the 36-year-old mall at Preston Road and LBJ Freeway. Which isn't unreasonable: One year ago, an analyst at CB Richard Ellis predicted '09 might be the year Valley View closed, given the fact it lost both Macy's and Dillards before the economy collapsed. Local commercial real-estaters say there's little chance Macerich will find anyone to take those spaces.

Dead Malls is littered with the stories of malls that have come and gone -- among them, locally, Big Town and Prestonwood Town Center. In March the owner of Stonebriar and the operator of the Galleria filed for Chapter 11. Southwest Center's barely hanging on, with the city going so far as to spend $120,000 on a feasibility study and another $97,000 on rent in the old JCPenney's space just to keep it from becoming a flea market.

Perhaps, tomorrow, we'll hear from Macerich management about the future of Valley View Center. Till then, a few photos from my visit today.

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