When Dallas-native Suzanne Smith was growing up, the mall was “a big deal.” But with societal shifts, Valley View and others like it started losing relevance.
“We need to figure out how to make it an epicenter again, but in a new way,” Smith says.
Located at the intersection of two major highways and not too far from the airport, Downtown Dallas or our city’s growing suburbs, the Valley View-Galleria area has been identified as the site of the future Dallas International District.
Smith’s consulting firm, Social Impact Architects, was brought in by the City to help with the project. The company calls itself a “social change agency” and partners with organizations to create better marketing and strategy, foster collaboration, encourage agreement and make decisions.
“As a social entrepreneur, the goal is that you go to places where society is stuck, and you unstick them,” she says.
“Much like a coloring book, we’ve created the vessel or the outside line of what Valley-View Galleria, now Dallas International District, is. But we need everybody in the community to help us color it in.”Suzanne Smith
The Dallas International District will cover 450 acres bordered by the LBJ Freeway, the Dallas North Tollway, Preston Road and Alpha Road. Anchored by a 20-acre park will be residential structures, office towers, the Pre-K-12 International District STEAM Academy, retail space, dining options and entertainment venues.
There are plans to connect the area to the DART network, and automated transportation will be installed within the district.
District 11 City Council member Jaynie Schultz has already started holding office hours at the Prism Center, a property acquired by the City.
Though a redevelopment plan for the area had been created in 2013, it was outdated by the time Smith was asked to get involved. Her work included evaluating the old plan, assessing the existing assets and reviewing examples of what other cities have done. Places like Seattle and Dubai had both established international districts, and when Smith pitched the idea to make one in Dallas, she received a ton of support.
“It was a great fit,” Smith says. “It fit the assets. It fit the existing plans. And it also fit as far as what Dallas actually needs to really catapult it into a new atmosphere or into a new place globally.”
“Midtown” was explored as a name for the area, but Smith says it didn’t achieve brand equity. Plus, it was taken by the Midtown Improvement District. They also considered “Valley View-Galleria.” But like Midtown, this term didn’t spark excitement or interest among the tourists or residents they interviewed.
“I think the Dallas International District will recenter Dallas but also allow us to kind of give the rest of the globe a new view of who Dallas actually is. That we are multicultural, that we do have amazing assets, that we’re not just boots anymore, boots and cowboys.”Suzanne Smith
“Much like a coloring book, we’ve created the vessel or the outside line of what Valley-View Galleria, now Dallas International District, is. But we need everybody in the community to help us color it in,” Smith says.
Many different entities have ownership of pieces of the land included in the international district site. The City wants to acquire all parcels needed for the central park, Schultz says, as well as the property for the Dallas ISD school.
“And our job as the City is to help them fulfill that vision, help them see what the vision could be and then act on it when we can,” Schultz says.
One recent example came with the rezoning of a property owned by Piedmont Office Realty Trust, which will construct a new office tower at the southwest corner of Alpha and Noel.
“What we want this district to be is a true live-work-play district,” Schultz says. “So though there may be lots of changes in the future of offices, there’s definitely a need for housing and there’s definitely going to be a need for work spaces, whether they’re in people’s apartments or they’re right down the street.”
The Mall Area Redevelopment TIF District will help fund the redevelopment; however, the City has also partnered with the North Texas Council of Governments to secure a $10 million grant for a demonstration project of an automated transportation system within the international district that will eventually connect with DART’s Red and possibly Silver lines.
As much as this development regards the built environment, the human aspect should not be overlooked.
“We have in this region thousands and thousands of people who’ve come from different countries from around the world,” Schultz says. “And what we want this district to be is their hub, their place where they can have offices and festivals and housing that reflects their ethnic style of living.”
Smith imagines the district as a place where Dallasites can do activities like walk through a night market or attend cultural festivals without leaving the city.
“I think the Dallas International District will recenter Dallas but also allow us to kind of give the rest of the globe a new view of who Dallas actually is,” Smith says. “That we are multicultural, that we do have amazing assets, that we’re not just boots anymore, boots and cowboys.”
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