In the 1940s, Elmwood witnessed the spectacular development of Six Flags founder Angus Wynne's "Wynnewood," which promised Oak Cliff a village of housing (along streets named after WWII Navy commanders, ships and battles), as well as shops, restaurants, a movie theater, offices and a hotel all within 15 minutes of downtown Dallas – "mixed-use development" before the term was popular. A 2010 article in the Oak Cliff Advocate describes many of the stores in detail.
The shopping center flourished until the 1970s when almost every major retailer left for Red Bird Mall. Wynnewood Village became a shell of its former self, a sort of time capsule populated by Ross and Kroger instead of Volk's and Montgomery Ward. While the beautiful homes of Wynnewood North increased in value, by the 2000s something clearly had to be done with the aging 440,000-square-foot shopping center. Its new owners had demolished several buildings, including the movie theater and Montgomery Ward.
In 2006, Dallas Council Member Ed Oakley began looking at economic incentives for turning the shopping center into something resembling West Village in Uptown. While no plans advanced, it began a public discussion about whether mid-century strip shopping centers are worth preserving. Connie Briggs of Elmwood told the Dallas Morning News, "There's nothing wrong with this shopping center, especially with the way it's laid out. It just needs good retail in there, and people will come." Joseph Hernandez, vice president of the Wynnewood North Neighborhood Association, said that the center's history is important to Dallas but that the actual buildings are not.
Ed Oakley summarized the disagreement by saying "You can't make an omelet without breaking the eggs. People would have to make a choice about what they want."
In 2012, the City of Dallas hosted a series of workshops to discover stakeholder views on opportunities, challenges, and “must-happen” priorities for Wynnewood-area residents. While the focus was primarily on the phased redevelopment of the Parks at Wynnewood apartment community, the report explored redevelopment options for the shopping center.
In August of 2017, drawings by current owners Brixmor became public, with images published in the Dallas Morning News in a story by Maria Halkias showing a dramatic facelift around a reconstructed roundabout. At least one building could be replaced by a fitness center and a new movie theater would replace the original building now occupied by Payless Shoe Source. Modern facades and landscaping would replace the red brick exterior structures.
We won't know until final plans are made public, but many Elmwood neighbors have expressed passionate opinions on what the center should and should not contain, or what it should and should not look like. Can Wynnewood Village be redeveloped in a way that respects its mid-century aesthetic, or should we take what we can get for "about $30 million" if it means stucco and metal facades, for example, in place of its traditional red brick? James Andrew Mitchell, an Elmwood resident, commented that "mid-century [architecture] is known for clean lines like what we see in Wynnewood. It's worth saving," echoing much of the feedback that Ed Oakley received in 2006. Others believe that high rents will push out some services, like dollar stores and laundromats, needed by nearby low-income residents.
In the Dallas Morning News story, Matthew Berger of Brixmor is quoted saying that the second phase will be construction in the field where Montgomery Ward once stood, and that "whatever we do is community- and tenant-driven...we want to do the right thing with the field in the middle.” If plans for this phase turn out to include a parking garage and/or multifamily housing, expect another long public debate. Either way, we can probably all agree that a major investment in Wynnewood Village is long overdue.
Trejo, Frank (April 21, 2006). "Wynnewood Village: Too quick to change?" The Dallas Morning News.
Halkias, Maria (August 3, 2017). “Oak Cliff's Wynnewood Village owner Brixmor plans upgrades for the 1940s shopping center”The Dallas Morning News.
Wynnewood Urban Design Strategy, City of Dallas