(Source: The Dallas Morning News)
Drivers trying to navigate the intersection of Ferguson and Gus Thomasson roads in northeast Dallas may want to rethink their route.
The streets are torn up, and construction work is starting on the shopping strip.
Developers and city officials say the commuter consternation will be worth it early next year when a $10 million-plus makeover of the retail crossroads is done.
Casa View Village was once hailed as “a modern shopping center for one of the fastest growing areas of Dallas.” But 60 years on from the grand opening, the retail district in northeast Dallas was well past its prime when neighborhood leaders and city planners began crafting a redo.
Now construction is underway on upgrades for the shopping village that’s at the heart of one Dallas’ 1950s neighborhoods.
“We are 30 days into what we believe will be a 6- to 8-month renovation of the buildings at the northwest corner,” said Daniel Fuller with Dallas’ Shop Cos., which is redeveloping the landmark retail center. “Through the years, the property has faded a bit.
“There is tremendous political will from the city and the neighborhoods to restore these properties to what they deserve to be.”
Shop Cos. bought the 64-year-old shopping center late last year, in partnership with Dallas’ Hunt Realty Investments and CrossTie Capital.
The new owners plan to restore the buildings and bring in new retail and restaurant tenants.
They’ve already signed new leases with Ace Hardware and Tacos Y Mas. But not all the current merchants at Casa View are being replaced.
“There are probably three or four tenants that have been there since 1954,” Fuller said. “There is an art and science to merchandising a property that has the history Casa View has.
“We want to keep some of the tenants that have been there for a long time.”
When the retail center was built in the early 1950s, it was described as a “new downtown for far East Dallas” following thousands of new homes springing up on the edge of Dallas.
Originally called Casa View Hills, the retail strips served growing post-World War II neighborhoods where you could buy a new house for less than $8,000. Built with antique brick and decorative wrought iron, the Casa View buildings that Shop Cos. is now rebuilding were described as “New Orleans-style.”
Back in the day, the shopping center had two major supermarkets, Sears and J.C. Penney department stores and dozens more merchants serving northeast Dallas and Mesquite.
“Less than three years ago, farm workers were picking cotton from the land where the modern Casa View Village shopping center now stands,” The Dallas Morning News wrote in 1956.
Award-winning Dallas architect Omniplan — the same firm that designed Liberty Mutual Insurance’s huge new Plano regional offices and NorthPark Center shopping mall in Dallas — worked with Casa View’s owners, residents and the city on a renovation plan.
“The neighborhood, you could tell, was once something really fantastic,” said Omniplan’s Amanda Buckley. “This project is about getting back to what it was.
“There is a lot of opportunity there,” she said. “It’s not like a standard suburban shopping center with no character.”
Shop Cos. plans to keep Casa View’s quirky architecture and old-style charm.
“It’s a wonderful eccentric property, and our goal is to do a sensitive restoration,” Fuller said. “We want to preserve the original brick with the wonderful patina.”
The storefront canopies will be restored, lights and signage upgraded and the central plaza reworked with new paving and landscaping.
“We are planting 60 new ornamental and shade trees at Casa View,” Fuller said. “I think by year-end it will be quite a lot different.”
Neighbors like what they are hearing and wish it could move even faster.
“It’s coming — we’ve just got to be patient,” said Mike Nurre, a member of the Greater Casa View Alliance. Nurre said the neighborhood is attracting a new generation of residents who are eager for new shopping options.
“I know that the gentrification word is not popular, but it’s happening,” he said. “Far East Dallas is at a tipping point. At one time this was the most solid middle-class neighborhood back in the 1960s.”