Long-suffering Denton residents have heard this before. Golden Triangle Mall has new ownership. The long-troubled shopping center is going to get yet another renovation. This time the city of Denton itself had to kick in $9.5 million to make it happen.
The news reminded me of something that came up during my recent breakfast with Ray Washburne, he of the MCrowd Restaurants and owner of Highland Park Village. We mostly talked about all the changes coming to the Village, but something that didn’t make it into the published article were his comments about Denton.
MCrowd had a deal in place to put a Mi Cocina location into the Rayzor Ranch development in Denton, but with that planned mixed-use project having slowed down due to economic factors, it hasn’t happened. “It was going to be the classic suburban lifestyle center,” Washburne said. “As a college town, I think a small Mi Cocina or Taco Diner would do well up there.” Then he added:
“Denton doesn’t have a sense of place.Â That’s what these lifestyle centers have done – like up in Allen – is create a sense of place.”
Obviously, I disagree. But I’m from Denton. Washburne is a Dallas/Park Cities guy through and through, so I get it. To him Denton is just another faceless suburb, devoid of its own personality. Can’t say I don’t feel the same way myself about Richardson or Garland or Duncanville, or any of the other cities I don’t know well.
But the notion that a “suburban lifestyle center,” which is bound to be chock-a-block with franchised restaurants and chain retail shops, being the way to bring a “sense of place” to a city? Â Does that work?
Maybe in Southlake at its Town Square? (Then again, maybe I’m drawing a false correlation between “sense of place” and financial success.) Â What about Washburne’s own example, Watters Creek in Allen? Or Frisco Square? I know that Flower Mound’s Parker Square hasn’t worked out quite as well as was initially hoped.
The thing about Denton is, though, it doesn’t need to create a faux town square. It’s already got a real one.