Suzanne Smith: Making a (Business) Case for the Dallas International District

Smith's public benefit corporation, Social Impact Architects, worked with early stakeholders on strategic plans for the Dallas International District.

"Our slogan right now is  'Connecting the World to Dallas. Sharing Dallas with the World,' she says.

Suzanne Smith founded Social Impact Architects to reshape the business of social change. Last year, the public benefit corporation worked with early stakeholders in the announced Dallas International District. Plans call for a 450-acre district in the Valley View-Galleria Special Purpose District, anchored by an iconic 20-acre proposed park.

Funded by a public-private partnership, the initiative reimagines the former mall site in North Dallas. Along with “The Commons” park in the heart of the development, the district will leverage best practices in smart cities and eco-friendly design.

Two significant partner agency efforts include NCTCOG’s support for an automated transportation system and the Dallas ISD/Texas A&M-Commerce plan to create a pre-K-12 STEAM academy with a global perspective.

Smith is among the experts invited to share their thoughts on the CRE market for our recent DALLAS® magazine that focused on how DFW punches above its weight in commercial real estate.

Here’s what she had to say about the Dallas International District project in our “View from the Top Tier.”

How did you get involved with the recently announced Dallas International District project?

I grew up going to Valley View mall as a teenager—in fact, I bought my prom dress there. Like every longtime resident, I’ve wondered, “what’s next for this iconic area of Dallas?”  Shortly after the pandemic began, I was approached by Jayne Suhler, a good friend and former colleague on the Arts & Culture Commission, to look at the current project and provide some insights for the future.  Cool ideas existed, but it needed a strong business case, branding, and a little bit of what I call “cat herding”—my superpowers as a social entrepreneur at Social Impact Architects. The research confirmed the vision of an “International District,” and we were excited to share it with all of Dallas in January.  

What’s your role in it moving forward?

This has been a labor of love. As a Benefit Corporation, we take on one or two major projects each year pro- or low-bono. This was the project for 2021. … Moving forward, I will still be engaged in some capacity and wherever I’m needed most.

What does the project say about Dallas as a city? 

We now have a solid strategy for the Valley View-Galleria area that leverages the iconic area for the benefit of the entire region. It’s the perfect location to celebrate and inspire the diverse people and businesses of North Texas as well as test some of our most innovative and eco-friendly ideas through a new Civic Innovation Zone.  Our slogan right now is  “Connecting the World to Dallas. Sharing Dallas with the World.”

I can’t think of anything more important to Dallas’ future than what this project represents—it connects the dots for much of our most important work.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

A version of this story first appeared in the print edition of DALLAS® Commercial Real Estate 2022, published by Dallas Next for TREC and the Dallas Regional Chamber. Read more in the digital edition of the magazine below, and request the next print edition here.


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