Opened in 1973, Valley View Center was the first major mall in far north Dallas, the expansive, monied area of the DFW Metroplex located north of I-635. Valley View is situated at I-635 and Preston Road, about 13 miles north of downtown Dallas. When it opened, Valley View Center was on the edge of town – today, Valley View is only a third of the way from downtown to the edge of the Metroplex. After 36 years, multiple expansions and competition appearing literally adjacent to it, Valley View is on the precipice of a major change after having seen better days. Only by building something truly destinational and drawing people from all over the Metroplex will Valley View be able to recapture its once-thriving status; otherwise, it will continue along the slippery slope into obsolescence.
Valley View Center was built by Homart Development Company, the development arm of Sears Roebuck and Company, who already operated a standalone store here since 1965. When the mall opened, a Dallas-based Sanger-Harris was added, as well as an interior corridor connecting it to Sears. The Center’s grand opening took place in August 1973, and a famous promotion garnered national media attention when shoe store Thom McAn gave away a free 8-ounce steak with a $5 purchase. Mmm, nothing like red meat and shoes! Smack those lips.
With Sears and Sanger-Harris at its helm, Valley View enjoyed immediate success with little competition in the far north Dallas market. In fact, the only other mall at all in north Dallas was NorthPark Center, located several miles south of Valley View along US 75. Valley View enjoyed instant success as rapid development took place in far north Dallas and also in neighboring suburbs Richardson, Garland, Plano, and Carrollton.
In response to this growth, an expansion was planned for 1979, adding a two-level Dillard’s store as well as more in-line space to the mall. This expansion was especially prescient as the late 1970s and early 1980s would bring serious competition to Valley View. Richardson Square Mall became the second mall in far north Dallas, opening in 1977, and the large Prestonwood Town Center became the third in 1979. These malls, however, would not pose as much of a threat to Valley View in recent years (because they bit the dust!), as much as the two that opened in the early 1980s – Collin Creek Mall and Dallas Galleria.
In 1981 and 1982, more competition hit Valley View extremely hard. The first was the opening of the large Collin Creek Mall in fast-growing Plano, which debuted in 1981, a bit north of Valley View. The second blow hit harder and much closer to home as Hines Interests, a Houston developer, wanted to copy Houston’s Galleria mall and bring it to Dallas. Hines purchased a great site at the intersection of I-635 and the Dallas North Tollway, one block west of Valley View Center. Whoops. Dallas Galleria opened in 1982, anchored by upscale Saks Fifth Avenue and Marshall Field’s as well as a set of similarly upscale stores under a beautiful three-level concourse with an arched glass roof.
The two malls coexisted harmoniously for some time, especially after Valley View wisened up and did an upscale tweak of its own, adding a Bloomingdale’s store in 1983 and later a themed area they called The Conservatory. The Conservatory had a piano with player, fouffy upscale-themed artwork, fancy landscaping, and it surreptitiously invited upscale shoppers away from the neighboring Galleria. The attempt was valiant, but didn’t really work.
Two more major events took place in 1985 at Valley View, when Dillards added a third level, and Texas removed its blue laws and allowed stores to open on Sundays for the first time. And, in 1987, Sanger-Harris merged into Foley’s.
The Bloom(ingdale’s) on the rose didn’t last long, though, as the store was never a fit at Valley View Center. The upscale keeping-up-with-the-Joneses at Valley View ended in August 1990 when Bloomingdale’s gave up on the mid-market mall and closed. The next few years were a thorn in the side for Valley View’s management, as legal wranglings kept the anchor from being filled for 6 years. In 1991, Montgomery Ward wanted the site to build a 200,000 square-foot store, but the mall’s owner objected voraciously (hey, Wards isn’t Bloomingdale’s!), and ended up winning the fight to keep Wards away. Unfortuately, Wards was the only interested party at the time, so the anchor remained dark until 1996, when JCPenney finally filled it. At the time, the JCPenney here was the largest in the DFW Metroplex.
A twin-screen General Cinemas movie theater, in the mall since 1975, closed in 1991 and remained dark for more than ten years before being filled by Radio One studios in 2002. Inside the radio studios are a basketball court, mix room, small auditorium, a newsroom, and two production studios for stations KBFB (97.9 The Beat) and KSOC (94.5 K-Soul). You can check out a neat story about how the facility was constructed here. Mall management and the radio stations believe a symbiotic relationship exists between them. The radio stations benefit from in-mall advertising and visibility to shoppers, and the mall benefits from increased shopper traffic coming by to see their favorite personalities live on air. A window looks into the mall from the studios, and some well-known R&B personalities are based here, including Rickey Smiley, whose R&B morning show is syndicated on over 30 stations nationwide.
After Bloomingdales was finally replaced by JCPenney, Valley View’s owners finally realized that repositioning the mall toward a middle-income set of folks was probably smartest, and once again would allow a harmonious coexistence with the Goliath Galleria next door. This arrangement worked well into the 2000s, until two more malls delivered rapid blows of competition in 2000 and 2001, respectively. The 1.6 million square-foot Stonebriar Centre opened in Frisco in 2000, and the 1.4 million square-foot The Shops at Willow Bend opened in Plano in 2001.
Even as Richardson Square Mall and Prestonwood Town Center failed during the mid-2000s, the dominance of the new malls combined with the Galleria next door were too much for Valley View to handle. It no longer had a niche, even despite an extensive renovation in 2000, giving it a modern, fresher look. A large AMC Movie Theater also opened on top of the mall in 2004, giving it a third level. The upscale NorthPark Center also doubled in size in 2005-2006, and Galleria Dallas remodeled as well. At Valley View, some solid national chains began to leave as local stores moved in, and in 2006 Foleys became Macy’s when the latter purchased the former’s parent. This merger was ominous for Valley View Center, as there had already been a Macy’s at Galleria Dallas since 1985, a block away. How much Macy’s does one area need? Probably not two huge stores a block apart.
Hemmed in by malls on all sides, including new as well as dramatically renovated centers, it wasn’t long before Valley View began to have major problems. Unfortunately, in December 2007, immediately following the Christmas shopping season, Macy’s announced they were closing several underperforming stores nationwide, including the 300,000 square-foot Valley View behemoth of a store. This wasn’t a huge shock, considering there is already a large Macy’s a block away at Galleria Dallas. Then, a few months later, Dillards announced it was closing its huge three-level store in August of that same year. Ouch.
With two large anchors dark, Valley View Center is definitely in trouble and living on borrowed time. If management is proactive in retenanting or redeveloping the dark anchors, the mall could be saved. It might be too late, though, considering competition coming from all sides and the mall no longer having a niche in the market. Personally, I would remove the dead anchors, demolish them, and put up one of those fancy fad-oriented outdoor mall portions. Maybe even add some entertainment and restaurants; call it The District or something. Too bad the movie theater is on top of the mall on the inside, or that would go great out there too. Definitely add a Coldwater Creek though, and a Chico’s.
Seriously, proactive management needs to take charge and put Valley View Center on the offense to save it from becoming a piece of history. Like I said, it might be too late, but this is monied north Dallas, and this mall is well-positioned in it. What do you think? I visited Valley View Center in January 2009 and took the pictures feature here. How does the mall stack up today? Is it holding ground after surviving almost two years with half its anchors? Or is it fading fast? Let us know in the comments!