RedBird Mall Co-Developer Is Ready To Bring His Vision To Other Languishing U.S. Malls
For the mall’s co-developer, Russell Glen CEO Terrence Maiden, the revitalization strikes a much deeper chord, plunging him 30 years back into his childhood.
Maiden, a Texas Christian University graduate, grew up in nearby Oak Cliff. He is proud of that and tries to embody his parents' advice: Get educated and don't forget where you came from.
He remembers visiting the mall during its heyday in the 1980s. Then, the mall was flush with exciting retailers, entertainment and standard food court fare catering to hungry kids.
"RedBird Mall was the place to be," Maiden said. "It was a place where the community really gathered together. It was vibrant. It was fun. It was a mall that was widely recognized as the place where you wanted to hang out, especially if you were young and African American. It was our mall."
Over the next 30 years, RedBird, like many other big-box-focused malls, faced economic challenges and declining traffic.
The formula that ultimately killed RedBird included a toxic mix of crime, a mass exodus of Black middle-class families to the suburbs and a tough transportation grid that made it difficult to reach the mall from two separate highways, Maiden said.
"I think there are a few elements that played a pivotal role in the mall's decline," Maiden said. "I would say one is the retail trade area began to shift further south where the demographic had better incomes. You started to see a lot of retailers migrate to the Cedar Hill area."
It wasn't until Maiden and mall owner and investor Peter Brodsky launched plans a few years ago to redevelop RedBird that the trade area started receiving more attention again.
Maiden hopes the project will serve an even broader purpose — he is relying on RedBird to tell the story about life in South Dallas as he knows it.
The developers' vision for RedBird is now 40% complete. The mall is slated to offer South Dallas a solid mix of office, healthcare, retail, entertainment and affordable housing product. The apartments on-site are about 60% complete and developers are grinding away on the underground infrastructure, Maiden said.
Within the next four to six weeks, construction crews will begin transforming an old Sears store into a UT Southwestern medical destination. A hotel also is expected to break ground at the site next year, and the area will be adorned with green spaces and a wellness trail.
The South Dallas area is underserved in terms of healthcare offerings, so Maiden is particularly proud he and Brodsky established agreements to bring UT Southwestern facilities to RedBird along with service offerings from Children's Health and Parkland hospitals.
"In five years, the biggest [traffic] driver will be the healthcare options because Methodist has always been the healthcare flag that was in Southern Dallas," Maiden told Bisnow. "Now we are providing the community with more options."
But for Maiden, bringing the mall back is not just about picking the right service mix for local residents; it's about fighting longtime perceptions about the community's potential.
"I think oftentimes communities are painted with a broad brush," Maiden said. "There are a lot of misconceptions of what happens in the southern half of the city because many people don’t venture down to actually see it. Our strategy is to be very persistent with sharing this story of what we are doing and educating people on the quality of the community."
RedBird is not Maiden's final journey into the aging mall redevelopment space.
"Our company will be focused on other mall redevelopments across the country," Maiden said. "We realize that in the late 1970s and 1980s malls were overbuilt, and they are now going through this metamorphosis where they are trying to figure out how to get repositioned to meet current market conditions."
Maiden sees RedBird as a case study for older Class-B and C malls in major U.S. markets that need on-site destinations with enough appeal to woo today's shoppers. His firm is now hunting nationwide for other dated malls to revitalize.
"Our hope is that developers and investors across the country see what we are doing at RedBird as a model going forward," Maiden said.