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7 Things I Learned During the Red Bird/Camp Wisdom Tour

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By Shawn Williams

Thursday morning Ms. Edna Pemberton led a delegation of twelve individuals (including myself) on a tour of the Red Bird/Camp Wisdom corridor.  I wanted to share a few things I learned on our three hour tour.

1.  People care

There are a lot of folks of have been there and done that when it comes to Southwest Center Mall.  They remember the center’s heyday and want nothing to do with what’s going on in the area today.  They’ve given up on any hope of success.

Then there are those of us who want to see the area survive despite the challenges that lie ahead.  The 12 folks who joined us Thursday morning at Friendship-West (at 8 in the morning) lived or worked in the area and want be part of the solution, not a pity party. They were excited and engaged, ready to tell others about what they saw and how they can help.

We had young people, not so young people, members of the church, the District 8 Planning and Zoning Commissioner and members of the media.  I received a tweet during the tour asking who was sponsoring the trip. I posed the question to the group.  ”It’s grassroots, it’s community sponsored,” someone said.

I haven’t just seen this from the others in the van, I see and hear it almost every time I enter the mall.  Lots of the folks looking to the future who don’t bring the baggage from the past.  That’s a good thing.

2.  Paul Quinn’s Has Water Needs

Well they don’t need water exactly, but they do need a new irrigation system.  Speaking with farm manager Andrea Bithell during the tour, she said an upgraded irrigation system would make sure that when they water their crops, all the water would be put to good use instead of losing some to the air.  It would also ensure that only the crops are watered and not weeds. The lowest quote they’ve received so far is for a news system is $5,000.

3. Paul Quinn has herbs to sell

Bithell also said they have rosemary, chocolate mint and spearmint for sale right now. You can call 972.822.5010 if your interested in making a purchase.

4. The old theater has a new occupant

The old 6-10 theater building on the east side of the parking lot is being refurbished.  Indoor Soccer Zone is being built and construction was going on when we pulled up.  One of the workers explained that they are putting in four indoor soccer fields with a bar upstairs where patrons can look over the games.

In my mind I see it kind of like a Main Event with soccer instead of bowling, but that may be wishful thinking.  They have applied for a liquor license, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but means the community should be vigilant through the process.  They say then hope to be ready within a month or so.

5. Three area tenants are headed to Whetland Town Crossing

I knew Office Depot was headed out of their Camp Wisdom/Highway 67 building and I had forgotten Ross is leaving as well.  But I did not know that the Social Security Administration on the southwest side of the parking lot was headed to Wheatland Town Crossing too.  For weeks I’ve seen the progress of the new building back near Aldi, but now they have the Social Security’s sign out front.  It’s a beautiful building, and while these 3 moves are not the net loss of Toys ‘R Us, a plan must be developed to backfill these defections.  Target on Cockrell Hill still sits empty and the list goes on.

6. I’m prophetic

Three years ago I started working on an article for D Magazine called Saving Old Red Bird Mall which ran in May of 2009.  In the article I suggested tearing down the anchors on the west side of the building and trimming down the available retail.

Well the owners of Southwest Center Mall have put a temporary wall out just past the commons area and the old J.C. Penny’s building is falling down on itself.  It needs to be brought down completely.  The effort to turn the Old Dillard’s into Fiesta Mundo have stalled.  But the rest of the building is doing O.K. Actually they’re doing better than O.K.  I’ll elaborate more on that next week.

7.  There’s a silent push to bring ‘Red Bird’ back

Before we left for the tour Ms. Pemberton passed out bags embroidered with the words “Red Bird Mall.”  During the trip at least half of the time we referred to the mall as Red Bird.  To refer back to the D Magazine article again, I wrote “Start by changing the name back to Red Bird Mall.”  Every other part of town holds on to their name but ironically enough, the name Red Bird was taken (see Executive Airport).  Prestonwood Mall is now Prestonwood Shopping Center.  It should be up to the community to define itself, not others.

There’s more to come regarding the mall next week, but know that things are better inside and there’s a long way to go outside.

  • A. Butler

    Great info Shawn. I actually was in the mall a couple of weeks ago in Sears having a tire put on our work truck. Now, I’ve been going to this Sears, a mall staple of years, with my dad at Red Bird for the past 25 plus years. While waiting, I decided to tour my former hang out for the mid eighties. Here are a few of the things that I noted as I strolled through The Bird for more than an hour.

    I easily remember going to the 6-10 Movie Theater. In fact, I recall there being 4 movies within a 5 mile radius. UA 8, Movie 6-10, Movie 1-4, and The Aquarius.. All have been long gone… It’s interesting thinking about it because I can’t recall the last movie I saw at Red Bird.. I know at UA 8 it was “FRIDAY”.. Now there is no theater in this area.. It’d be nice to get maybe an IMAX theater on the 3rd floor (movie grill a plus), so that Red Bird would have something surrounding suburbs have yet to get. The new indoor soccer complex does sound fitting for the changing demographic, but I must say, I’m awaiting the completion of the new renovation with raised eyebrows.

    From an entertainment perspective, a Fiesta Mundo had a great idea but I don’t know if a new start up would find it easy to do. Maybe a MAIN EVENT/DAVE & BUSTER’S type venue is one I believe would work both for the community and corporately.

    I remember school shopping at JC PENNEY, and to hear it is falling down just makes me think about a lot of things in decline in the area shopping mall. It would be nice to have something in it’s place.. Maybe a Fry’s, LA Fitness, or a Barnes & Nobles (Or a new place for the Polk Camp Wisdom library). All in all, the move from JC PENNEY to Cedar Hill was the death of that rebirth (unless an outlet or something would come)..

    As I walked around the mall, I had mixed feelings. As I’ve lived in the metroplex through out the years, I’ve got to experience plenty of malls, and I must say Red Bird ranks among the lowest. After the upgrades to Northpark, the addition of Stonebriar (Frisco), Shops at Willow Bend (Plano), The Parks (Arlington), etc., there is plenty left to be desired for that at the Bird.. One thing I noticed is how so many shoe stores could have different kinds of shoes.. A neighborhood DSW would probably add some most wanted and new flavor to Oak Cliff… I noticed only small stores for women, but DSW would definitely be an upgrade, or at least draw some more traffic..

    Finally, a couple of things that probably could be with out.. I hate to say it by a friend of mines had their IPAD taken after leaving a barber shop in the mall one night a few weeks ago.. On top of that, they’ve added $1 stores and wig shops.. Something I hadn’t seen in other new malls. Those store would probably be more suited for the strip mall across the street or old Mervyn’s. Upscale salons yes, neighborhood barbershops I’m not sure…

    All in all, I am one would love to see Red Bird come back.. There have definitely been some improvements but there is plenty ways to go.. More big business and jobs would both be a blessing to the community and the mall, and I do believe with the proper guidance and right leadership, the REBIRTH OF THE BIRD, might be alive a well in the near future… Thanks again for the update Shawn P..

    A. Butler

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