By Shawn Williams – Dallas South News Editor
In a community meeting at the atrium of Southwest Center Mall on Monday night, the public was informed that after months in foreclosure, Southwest Center Mall has a new owner. When Councilman Tennell Atkins and Mayor Tom Leppert opened the meeting of 150 plus citizens, they did so knowing that there would be blowback from the deal that they were about to announce.
A representative from Madison Realty Capital, who had held the mall since it went into foreclosure, announced that they had formed a partnership with City View Commercial, who bought the inline properties at Southwest Center last Friday. That means they have control of all the non big box stores (stores inside the mall that are not Sears, JC Penny, Burlington, Dillards, or Macy’s).
Jack Friedler was there representing City View but the name that was on everyone’s lips was Jimmy Jazz. City View is the real estate arm for the more than 80 U.S. retail stores that sell the Jimmy Jazz lines.
About a month ago, word surfaced that an “urban retailer” had gotten in line to purchase the mall formally known as Red Bird. Ms. Edna Pemberton and other community leaders were uneasy about what they felt was a slight.
Mall advocates felt slighted for two reasons. First they felt they were doing everything they could to keep the mall from becoming a swap meet and the perception was that if the mall was purchased by an “urban retailer” then “Southwest Center Flea Market” could be the next step. Secondly, they (community leaders) were working with David Bell of Bell Industry who told him that he had put $15 million of earnest dollars (more on that later) down on the property, and Bell’s group never heard anything from anyone.
So Monday night the group felt it was more of the same as they listened to Mr. Friedler makes his pitch. One of the first questions from the audience was what type of stores the Jimmy Jazz group had in their other properties. The first word out of his mouth was “sneakers” closely followed by “men’s suits” (I wonder if they have five buttons or six). Friedler said the best way to find out about their merchandise is to go to their website, so I did. Their main brands are:
- Black Label
- New Era
- The North Face
- Apple Bottoms
- Baby Phat
Now, these are not cheapo brands, but it’s not the type of retailers envisioned by potential shoppers who currently travel to North Park, The Parks, and Uptown Village. They’re not going there for the aforementioned brands, although their kids might be.
There were a lot of pointed questions for the Mayor, Atkins, and Friedler. Friedler just got in the mix recently, so it’s understandable that he wouldn’t have many answers. But Leppert and Atkins didn’t have much to say other than the city doesn’t own the property and has no authority on who buys it. They asked the public to support Southwest Center Mall in hopes that it may one day become the retail destination that is so desperately desired.
So the people were there to talk about the mall, and for the most part folks were allowed to get their questions out in the open, even if they (we) didn’t get any answers. The City Manager and Fire Chief were also at the meeting. Mayor Leppert broke the meeting off in sections (Parks, Code Enforcement, etc.) in case citizens have specific questions, but 3/4 of the people met the Mayor, Atkins and Friedler in front of the old Dillard’s for more follow up.
For the second time, they were asked about the rumored $15 million deal that was on the table before Jimmy Jazz came along. The representative from Madison Realty Capital said there was never a deal on the table and they these were just rumors. But David Bell had told a group meeting at Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson’s office last month that he had put $15 million down, which gained he a lot of support from tenants and community advocates.
Leppert and Atkins reiterated the fact that the city didn’t own the building and that this was a private matter. And yet the city has been intimately involved in everything that has to do with the mall. Remember the $120,000 ULI Study? City officials were also part of a 5 o’clock meeting with interested parties (including David Bell) before the meeting 6:30 p.m. meeting that the rest of us attended.
So rather than speculating, I walked over to David Bell (of Bell Industry) who sat quietly through the entire meeting and asked him again whether he put $15 million down on the Southwest Center Mall property. He reaffirmed that he had made the offer and said that his offer was acknowledged in the closed door meeting before the meeting.
There is a WHOLE lot more story left to be told, including the fact that there is a contract on the Dillard’s, for which we were told on Monday would be a “Family Entertainment Center.” At the same time the Jimmy Jazz rumors started the same groups claimed that the Dillard’s was slated to become a “Latin Night Club.” I have yet to confirm this.
Anyway, stay tuned, this should be interesting.