By Dave Sims
Last week, the Denton Record Chronicle published an editorial that enumerated on a few issues some claim are plaguing the Denton downtown square. Among the issues are parking, noise, the types of businesses that are attracted to the square and an overall lack of family-friendly atmosphere. You can read the whole thing here. Dentonite and WDDI reader, Dave Sims, (and many others) took umbrage to the piece. This mindset hasn't just been seen in that one location, however. A few City Council candidates in the election that ended on this past Saturday ran on issues related to downtown Denton being a dangerous place in need of more police presneece. Below, you can find Sims thoughts on why the DRC article is out of touch with the current state and direction of downtown Denton. Read through it and let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Here's a little more perspective on the square and recent developments, since a major premise of this article is that the City and City Council doesn't care about the square, and are being passive and reactive. Nothing could be further from the truth. Virtually every aspect of the development around the square has been deliberate and in the works for nearly a decade. The plan has been to attract offices, entertainment and new business, mixed in with residential development. This is a short article I wrote for the Dallas Observer nearly eight years ago pointing to the very developments we're seeing now. Also, find the full plan here on the city website.
We have seen the manifestation of virtually every bullet point in the plan. GSATi is a major tech employer on the square. Santander moved a significant chunk of office space to downtown Denton (both companies have/had historic presence in Dallas, btw.) Jovian Minds is a boutique mobile consultant shop in the basement of the old bank building.
I submit these are more significant developments, economically and otherwise, than the departure of a knick-knack shop and one antique store who pulled up stakes for family reasons.
Also, mixed-use residential development around the area has skyrocketed. The city is actively developing a new tech-centric complex just a across from the square called the Rail Yard. Property values are up, yes. Just for the record, this is a Good Thing.
And again: did you notice Hickory St., by any chance? Just, maybe have you strolled down between Locust and Bell? Do you remember what that street used to be like?
Yes, we have a lot of bars. But look again: these aren't dives or dingy caves. Oak St. Drafthouse and East Side are -- wait for it -- family friendly! You can order tacos, bbq or korean food from a food truck in Austin Street Truck Stop, or pizza from Mellow Mushroom, or geez even more tacos from Rusty's or Flatlanders and sit in either establishments' expansive open outdoor patios in the back. There's kids and dogs running around, it's great! Come on out!
Let's talk about Harvest House. Have you been to Harvest House? Have you tried the juice, the coffee, or sat outside, under the patio? It's so much more than a bar, and it's typical of the kind of creativity and pride that Denton takes in itself. If you would walk around, you might catch a bit of that.
More important is the historic community efforts that bar owners like Josh Baish and Dan Mojica have made to become anchors of an entertainment district we can be proud of, attracting national touring acts and building out some of the best listening environments for independent music you can find anywhere.
Once again: walk around a bit. Get involved in the conversation; not just with a few voices at a single working session on City Council, but with those of us who have lived and worked here for decades, and are apparently way more invested in the square and its positive direction.
That said, what do y'all think about the article? Has the square become an area that many no longer want part of? How bad is the parking issue? Let us know what you think in the comments.