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Portion of old Six Flags Mall bought

12/05/2012 10:40 PM

12/05/2012 10:57 PM

Longtime Fort Worth antique dealer G.L. "Buck" Harris said Wednesday that he has bought nearly 364,000 square feet of the former Six Flags Mall in Arlington for "$5 million to $6 million" and intends to transform the 25.57-acre property into a Hispanic-oriented mall called Plaza Central with about 100 primary tenants and 100 merchant booths.

Harris, 76, who estimated renovations will cost upward of $3 million, told the Star-Telegram that he plans to donate the entire Plaza Central project to a Christian volunteer group, Youth with a Mission, when it's running profitably. The property, off Texas 360 and Division Street, is east of Cowboys Stadium and Arlington's entertainment district.

"I hope to live another two years and get the mall up successfully," he said in a telephone interview. "Then I'll transfer the ownership to them."

Harris said he has informed the Christian group's founder, Loren Cunningham, of his plan.

"He didn't have much comment but I believe he was quite happy with it," Harris said.

The idea of donating the property, he said, "was an inspiration." He said he researched the group before decided on making the gift.

"I am a serious believer in Scripture and Christ, and I am seeking a way to make my life meaningful to his kingdom. And He has led me to the acquisition of this property," Harris said. "How this works I don't know."

Youth With a Mission operates University of the Nations in Kona, Hawaii, where Cunningham lives. The organization, founded in 1960 by Cunningham, a former Assemblies of God assistant pastor, describes itself as a nonpartisan, international movement with 1,000 offices in 180 countries involving 25,000 volunteers. The little-known group was in the news in 2007 when Matthew Murray, who had attended a Youth With a Mission school in Colorado, fatally shot two of its missionaries in Denver.

Harris said he tried to buy the Dillard's building at the Six Flags mall site but was told it wasn't for sale. He then approached the International Bank of Commerce about the old J.C. Penney store after an auction failed. The bank obtained the 25-acre property in a 2008 foreclosure on former owner Tom Morris. Harris said he is modeling Plaza Central after the successful redevelopment of Town Center Mall at the South Freeway and West Seminary Drive in Fort Worth into the Hispanic-oriented La Gran Plaza.

He operated antique and furniture stores for five decades in Fort Worth, with locations on Loop 820, then East Lancaster Avenue, then finally in a sprawling 400,000-square-foot building off Cherry Lane in White Settlement, which he sold three years to Chesapeake Energy as a drilling site. He had never managed a property with more than 20 tenants but said he is confident of making the Six Flags project profitable.

Early signs are good, Harris went on.

"We have about 15 tenants already and we haven't made a major effort yet to lease," he said. "We've already got it cleaned up and ready to lease. It will be up and running in six months, maybe even three months." Permit delays have stalled work on the exterior, he added.

He said close relatives have been told about his plan to give the property to the Christian outreach group and has put it in his will.

"My family is more or less fine with it, some more than others. But I've already provided for them."

Barry Shlachter, 817-390-7718

Twitter: @bshlachter

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