Monthly Archives: October 2013

Dentoning….Walnut Street We-Do update, Part Deux

The progress of the proposed project to repurpose Walnut Street (alley) into an urban pedestrian paradise continues. On October 15th, interested parties met with the City of Denton Mobility Committee. The committee had earlier been tasked by City Councilwoman Pete Kamp to look into the viability of the project. The meeting was attended by several Walnut Street area business people, and representatives of several city departments.

We Do Walnut St.

Walnut Street/alley

In this preliminary meeting, the mobility committee came up with three scenarios……. 1) a complete closing of Walnut and repurposing to create a park-like pedestrian area. 2) a partial closing with a 20′ wide “road” through the area for service and safety vehicles, and 3) a change much like the Hickory St. corridor, with angled parking and wider sidewalks.

With few exceptions, scenario #1 seemed to be the most popular choice. Walnut Street is very narrow, and as I mentioned, more of an alley than a city street. Idea numbers 2 and 3 are limited in their potential utilization due to the narrowness and length of the street. Several potential positives AND negatives were discussed. Some of the business owners had already done some homework and found solutions for things such as grease traps and garbage disposal. Additionally, the City is now looking at a more centralized delivery system for the Downtown area, which would designate areas for delivery trucks to park and service the area without blocking our main thoroughfares.

Representatives of the city fire department were present, and initially said they needed access through Walnut Street in case of fire in the immediate area. The fact that previous fires were fought from either the Elm or the Locust Street ends of Walnut, and the thought of a fire engine and fire fighters trapped on the narrow street in a major fire, gave the DFD reason to go back and study possible ways to make the Walnut Street We-Do work.

The underground and above ground utilities for the street have pretty much reached the end of their life cycle and are due to be reworked soon, so that is money that already needs to be spent. The “We-Do” aspect of this project was discussed in an earlier blog post on this subject. Denton is bursting with a multitude of talent. Borrowing from urban renewal ideas in other cities, the plan would be to repurpose Walnut Street using the donated materials, ideas and labor of the citizens of Denton. $800,000 was originally set aside for an upgrade of Walnut Street but those funds were diverted to the Hickory Street corridor project which is now getting underway. Hopefully, a “We-Do” would cost significantly less than that.

Some people have said that there are better places to do this project. There are certainly other places this could and hopefully will be done, but none better me thinks. It’s not an “either/or” situation. We could easily have several of these projects going on around our great city at the same time! We are limited only by our imaginations. There are always ways to get things done.

At the end of the Mobility Committee meeting, Pete Kamp asked the committee members and the other City departments to go back and study the project with open and challenging minds. Disruptive thinking can help to create a shady, relaxing and fun filled area just a half block off the Square and lead to similar projects around our City. Please email me at: dentoning@gmail.com with any and all thoughts on this. Denton is an amazing place to live. Let’s work to make it even better!

Enjoy Denton!

Dentoning….Planning its future

Denton is growing fast and everything points to it continuing to do so. With that in mind, the City of Denton has put together an endeavor to see that the growth works to the advantage of our great city. This project is called Denton Plan 2030 (dentonplan2030.com). A volunteer group of Denton citizens was assembled and tasked with coming up with a vision/plan of what Denton could look like from now until 2030 and beyond.

Denton Plannimg

Denton Plan 2030

It is estimated that there will be an additional 94,000 Denton residents by 2030. NINETY-FOUR THOUSAND. With that number of people added to our current population and to our town’s infrastructure, what do we need to do to prepare so that Denton continues to be the wonderful place we enjoy living? That was the question posed to the diverse group of volunteers in Phase 1 of Denton Plan 2030. During several gatherings, this group looked at changes which must take place to accommodate the influx of people and at the same time retain the unique livability of Denton. City government, traffic, housing, green space, culture and preservation were a few of the areas considered. Ideas, pros/cons, visions, and hopes were collected and a draft of a city plan was born.

Denton Plan 2030 is now in Phase 2. In this phase, public forums are being held to get feedback from a wider cross-section of Dentonites. These forums are your chance to review the plan and the various options developed during Phase 1. Do we want a more compact, user-friendly Denton? Do we want more growth outside “the loop”? Do we want growth along corridors? We’ll need new roads, parks, libraries, public buildings and housing. All this and much, much more needs to be considered and a solid plan put into place……….and YOU can help.

The next community forum is scheduled for Saturday, November 9 from 9am to 11am. This is your chance to help plot the future of our incredible town. The meetings are fun, informative and will help shape Denton’s future. If at all possible, try to make the next one………..

Enjoy Denton!!! (for years to come)

Dentoning….Ghosts of Denton

Dentoning often revolves around live music, but that in no way defines the past time. There is a plethora of unique things to do in this city we call home. On a recent dark and breezy night, I partook of one such adventure. It consisted of part history and part visiting with several dearly-departed Dentonites.

Every Friday and Saturday night (weather permitting), the “Ghost Lady”, Shelly Tucker, leads a tour of downtown Denton called “Ghosts of Denton”. On the tour, Ms. Tucker who is a professional story teller recognized by the American Endowment of the Arts as an American Masterpiece, relates stories of the ghosts of Denton. And there are a lot of them……

With an official history of 167 years, numerous downtown fires, and the inevitable death of all Dentonites, Denton has a healthy number of spooky, strange and unusual tales. Shelly does a superb job of telling those tales and brings to life, so to speak, the spirits which populate downtown and beyond…

Each tour begins in the living room of Downtown Denton, Jupiter House. Shelly meets and greets people who have booked the tour and after all are present, leads the group to the only place to start a proper ghost tour, the grave of John B. Denton. A brief history of Denton is relayed, along with the story of the man who lies a mouldering just feet away.

Tour start

The gathering at Jupiter House

Start of ghost tour

The grave of Denton’s ghost laureate…..

I’m not going to tell any of the stories here. I would not do the stories justice…………the “Ghost Lady” does. Some of the ghosts have been around a long time, others are more recent.

As it turns out, many of the businesses we frequent have a ghostly present…….some the business owners claim, others…..not so much. For instance, who knew Hooligan’s has an actual hooligan named Stewart? Or that Abbey Underground has a playful spook they call Shamus? I will say that Shamus has a taste for Guinness beer………good taste for a spook.

Ghosts of Denton

The animated host begins the walk…

The tour encourages healthy “life”styles by requiring a bit of walking. The tours are never the same due to the number and location of the former dentoningers. This particular tour took us south of the Square to the site of the former La Blair Hotel next to the site of the incinerated “La Casita”………a restaurant near and dear to the memories of seasoned Dentonites. The story of the La Blair’s ghost(s) is Shelly’s favorite and is verified by many former owners and residents.

La Blair Hotel

In front of the former La Blair Hotel

The group of about 20 was enthralled by all the stories and had many questions for the Ghost Lady. There were skeptics at the beginning of the tour who quickly became believers as we roamed the area surrounding Denton’s Square. There was even a team from the North Texas Daily was onboard, to do a story on Denton’s shady past.

Final story

Spellbound ending….

The night was perfect for the tour as Shelly relayed other tales of haunting at the Campus Theater, Ruby’s (now Cartwright’s), the old Flow Hospital and the streets and alleys surrounding our town center. The outing ended with a fascinating tale of continued public service by a former Denton County Sheriff. He’s still there “to protect and serve” when you need him……..

Whether you believe or not, GHOSTS OF DENTON is a great way to explore the past and to…..

Enjoy Denton!

Dentoning….Urban Spelunking

Denton is our stage. And the stage is constantly changing. Buildings come and buildings go. Thankfully many buildings of old Denton are still with us and add to Dentoning as we know it. Hopefully, the ones with true historic value will be preserved for future generations of Dentoning Dentonites.

One building that most of Denton drives by on a regular basis but few have probably ever been in, is the Monroe Pearson Building on East Oak St. The Monroe Pearson Building is a huge warehouse which was built in three phases, beginning in the 1890s to be used primarily as a grocery portal. At the time, the population of Denton was centered closely around the Square. There were numerous grocery stores on the Square and in the surrounding blocks. The Monroe Pearson Building supplied those early mom and pop groceries, subsequently becoming a general warehouse as the years passed.

Denton historic building

M-P grocery warehouse

For years, the building has been empty, except for a small fan business in the east end of it in recent years. Having sat basically fallow for many years, the building was purchased as of late, with the plan to turn it into apartments or condos. This plan changed, and now other plans are being discussed. With the “multi-modal” station (city-speak for train/bus station) close by, this is the perfect area for residential units with the commuter in mind. I’m not sure though how brisk the market is for true commuters, but it is cool that Denton is beginning to return to the central area after having migrated to the outlying, peripheral areas of Idiot’s Hill, Southridge and Hog Valley in the ’50s and 60s.

Inside Monroe Pearson building

Slide for moving product from 2nd floor.

Monroe Pearson building freezer door

Freezer door

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to do some “spelunking” in the Monroe Pearson Building. It was being gutted and my friend, Steve Yount, spent many days harvesting old wood from the interior. The building has a special attraction for Steve. His father, Bill Yount, who died in 1980, worked out of the building for years. Steve used to spend much time in the building as a child, “helping” his dad. The look on Steve’s face when he first entered the building was priceless. You could see his childhood and memories of his dad sweep across his soul. There was a sudden gush of stories, followed by “Oh my god”s and “it’s still here”s…….The building was empty, yet completely full for Steve.

Interior

A look through time. The 3 phases of the Monroe Pearson building.

Monroe Pearson interior

Dilapidation

I was unable to help with the wood salvation due to an injury,…….good timing, huh? Steve, his wife Karen and son David though, spent many hours inside the Monroe Pearson building prying old wood from walls, floors, ceilings and anything else nailed down over the weekend. I went by several times to supervise and took the pictures you see here.

Exterior

Window

Conveyor belt system for stocking of Monroe Pearson building

Conveyor belt system for stocking of Monroe Pearson building

In places, it really did feel cave-like. Most of the structure seems sound, but there were areas where the floor had caved in and the ceiling shows daylight. At one point during the work, Steve heard Karen calling him to come quick. Thinking she may have stepped on a nail, fallen through the floor or had discovered an unknown room, Steve ran to her side. When he got to her side, she said “Did you write this?”. Looking up, he saw “Bill Yount” penciled onto the wall in 6 inch letters. Bill was Steve’s dad, the graffiti must have been added to the wall decades ago. Though the vandalism of the wall was probably not a good example for little Steve, big Steve was elated. The autograph was the only non-product related writing they found on any of the walls, so it was one of those strange cases of the right person being at the right place at exactly the right time. Had anyone else found it, it would be at the City dump by now, but Steve now has a part of his dad on the mantel.

Bill Yount

Bill Yount, former employee

Interior

Gateway to history

Exterior door to Monroe Pearson building

Once the building is stripped of anything of value, the engineers will come in and decide what can be used and what cannot. I can’t imagine much more than the brick shell being used, but even that is better than demolition and building anew. As opposed to the Fry Street fiasco, I love the historic aspects of Denton being made an integral part of new development whenever possible. I mean that way, we don’t have to learn a bunch of new places and things with which to enjoy Dentoning. I’m all about simplicity. I’m not sure what the exact plans are for the Monroe Pearson building, but if they were me, we’d have it as a multi-use building, with ground floor retail and living space above. But hey, that’s just me. The stage of Denton continues to change, and with it, our opportunities to…………..Enjoy Denton!!