Serving Up Awards for New Development in Roanoke

The growth of many North Texas communities is no secret. One city in southern Denton County is being recognized for how it is guiding that growth.

If you're hungry, and you're driving through Roanoke, Sammy Lajqi can take care of that. His Italian Bistro has been a fixture there since 2003. It is also one of 60 restaurants in six square miles of Roanoke.

"The reason why we came to Roanoke is we love the city," said Lajqi. "We love the area."

You couldn't tell by looking at it now, but the building where he built his dream was once an old Dairy Queen. A few years ago, he purchased an old car wash next door, knocked it down, and expanded.

"I didn't even know where Roanoke was when I came in 2003," he said.  "Now, everybody knows. It's a very unique place to be."

Roanoke today is much different than what the city used to be. Nicknamed "The Unique Dining Capital of Texas," the city was incorporated in the late 1800s along a railroad line.

"I look back and I wish I had some of our city limit signs that said population 817," said Scooter Gierisch, a lifelong resident of Roanoke who's been the city's mayor since 2005.

Roughly 9,300 people now call Roanoke home and thousands more work in the city. On Oak Street, there is a historic feel -- both in the places that have seemingly always been here, like Babe's Chicken and The Classic, two long-serving restaurants – and newer construction, which seemingly never ends.

Earlier this year, the new city hall opened, the centrepiece of the city's main drag.

"The aesthetics of downtown was a complete transformation," said Gierisch. "The walkability, the amount of restaurants we have, the entertainment that has now come to downtown."

It's a transformation for which Roanoke was recently awarded the CLIDE award for new development from the North Central Texas Council of Governments -- the only North Texas city to win in the category.

"It just, for one, shows the positive growth we've had in the city," said the mayor.

Roanoke also received the CLIDE award in 2011, for the redevelopment of its downtown. Planning for the modernization project began in 2004.

For Lajqi, the growth was never a given.

"To be honest, I did not know that Roanoke would look like this in 2003," he said. "In the beginning, I had some doubts. Now, I'm genius."

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