The intersection of Cedar and Oak streets, just off the Denton Courthouse Square, has been full of backhoes, barricades and construction workers for most of this past spring and early summer. In fact, the entire stretch of Cedar Street between McKinney and Hickory streets has undergone a complete facelift, including new pavement, sidewalks, streetlights, planters and parking spaces.
It's just one small step in an ongoing program to revitalize downtown Denton, a plan commissioned by the city and drawn up by The Fregonese Associates of Portland, Oregon. The Fregonese plan, available online at the City of Denton Web site, looks like an exercise in classic new urbanism. It promotes a dense, mixed-use downtown area while encouraging infrastructures that would seem to be positive for the Denton music scene, including an arts and entertainment corridor running right past Dan's Silverleaf, and proposed zoning and other incentives to encourage pedestrian traffic and a creative environment.
But look over the plan, the local paper or the square itself, for that matter, with its various kiosks and seasonal banners hanging from streetlights, and you wouldn't suspect that Denton is home to an internationally respected music scene that had recently attracted attention from The London Guardian, The New York Times, Paste Magazine, MTV Online and PopMatters. Whereas Austin years ago embraced its music culture as a civic asset, in some ways Denton still seems pleasantly oblivious to one of its best potential resources.
That could be changing. With the election of new Denton mayor Mark Burroughs there has been a renewed hope that the city may finally be ready to take serious notice of its music community. Ongoing conversations between Burroughs, mayor pro tem Pete Kamp and some longtime members of the Denton music scene have been productive and encouraging. But as to what the city can actually do for Denton music, some, like Rubber Gloves' owner Josh Baish, are only cautiously optimistic. "We'll see what happens," says Baish. "It would be nice for [the city] to say, hey, they've done this thing without our help, let's see what happens if we throw them a little support."
Dan Mojica, owner of Dan's Silverleaf, is downright sanguine about recent developments and is bullish as ever on Denton: "There's such a wealth of talent here, and with I-35 and the proximity to Dallas, there's no limit to the potential."
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Baish, meanwhile, thinks the recent media attention helps. "The music scene is more legit," he says. "People are realizing it's not a bunch of punk kids getting drunk—it's culturally relevant. We don't necessarily need [the city's] help. But it wouldn't hurt."