DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s about time. That’s the general consensus in the Red Bird area of Dallas after Dallas city leaders vote to infuse some $22 million into a planned redevelopment of the aging Red Bird Mall.
“We got this,” says community advocate and mall liaison Edna Pemberton with obvious pride. “We got this.”
Mrs. P., as she is called in the community, is the powerhouse who has fought for decades to see the mall exceed its former glory.
Once a South Oak Cliff economic engine, the nearly empty mall has been running on fumes for years.
“We take our money to North Park, Parks Mall, maybe Hillside Village in Cedar Hill,” explains college student Jordan Artis, who explained that he and his friends would like to support the mall they grew up visiting, but “things need to change.”
And change is the promise of a planned mixed use development slated for the area… bringing a new hotel, office space and green space. Although many small businesses continue to operate at the mall, the empty spaces now set the stage for new opportunities instead of despair.
“I tell everybody ‘you got to make things happen, you can’t let things happen’,” says Mrs. P. The tireless community advocate continued to insist that “It’s not about me, it’s about we,” as congratulatory calls continued to pour into the mall office space that she enthusiastically refers to as “the war room.”
From the energy infused space, Mrs. P. and her team continue to advocate for and celebrate her South Oak Cliff community. It’s the kind of excitement that has business owner Jayson Dixon telling the naysayers that he knows what he’s doing. Dixon and co-owner Jerrold Hardwick downsized a restaurant in an affluent area of Tarrant County to open a Catfish Express restaurant in the mall. He says he believes in the area’s potential.
“Everyone’s saying `you’re crazy…you’re staying here and nobody’s coming, you should be outside the mall’,” says Dixon. “And yeah, we’re going to open up a location outside the mall as well; but, we want to be here when they actually make the transformation. We want to be a part of the grand opening.”
Dixon says he understands why homeowners in well kept neighborhoods nearby take their dollars elsewhere.
“The problem now is there’s nothing over here, there’s nothing over here for them, so all of that money is going to other places,” says Dixon. “Well, if all that money is going to other places, you’re going to have the rundown areas– you’re going to have a mall that’s not going to thrive because there’s nothing here. Well, let’s bring it back and let it grow.”
And customers who grew up shopping in the mall are eager to return if quality amenities are available.
“I want to see it do amazing,” says South Oak Cliff native and college student Neiman Armstrong. “Not just well, amazing. I’m coming back. ”
Supporters are already warning the community that patience will be required when construction gets underway in earnest next year.
A new freestanding Starbucks is already under construction on the side of the mall facing Camp Wisdom– it’s scheduled to open later this summer.