Denton Strives to Balance Past, Future in Downtown

As Denton looks to revitalize city's historic downtown square for the future, some worry about how to preserve its past.

Improvements have been made over the years to widen sidewalks, add landscaping and lighting and make it more pedestrian friendly.

But the next phase is where things get tricky.

"Architecture is definitely going to be an important element,” said city planner Brian Lockley.

A task force is studying several ideas, including some that call for a more contemporary look downtown such as adding facades and signage to historic buildings.

Peggy Capps, who serves on the task force and has been working for years to preserve the look of the older buildings, said each building's uniqueness is part of the charm of downtown Denton.

Melody Medley, a University of North Texas student, agreed, saying the diversity of the buildings is a draw.

“It makes it Denton," she said. "It's special this way."

Lockley said wholesale changes are not being considered. Instead, the city is looking at things that will make people want to hang out in the square, such as improvements to some buildings, bike trails that connect UNT to a planned DART line in 2011 and more parking.

The task force is also getting help from consultants. Denton has paid $250,000 for professionals to draw up a vision for downtown.

Capps agrees with many of the proposals so far. She said change isn't what concerns her, it's the idea of losing some of the square’s character and history.

She said she wonders if all of the big ideas will fit "into a city that already has this wonderful history both architecturally and emotionally."

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