Tuesday, December 11, 2007

One More Chance to Save Fry Street?

I thought this issue had already been decided, but I discovered by talking to some friends from Denton over the weekend that the Denton City Council is once again considering a crucial component of the proposed Fry Street Village development: Whether or not the CVS drugstore, planned to be built on the footprint of The Tomato at Hickory and Fry, will be allowed to have a drive-through window. Supposedly, no drive-through would be a deal-breaker for CVS, and no CVS would be a deal-breaker for the entire development.
The project needs a special-use permit from the council to allow a drive-through lane for a proposed CVS Pharmacy at the corner of Fry and Hickory.

Opponents say a drive-through would increase vehicle traffic, endanger pedestrians and pollute air in the heavily walked area. University officials and others have said the area’s redevelopment would be beneficial in the long run.

United Equities project manager Tim Sandifer has said the entire project hinges on attracting CVS, and the pharmacy would not come without a drive-through. On Friday, Sandifer said the special-use permit “is important for a lot of reasons for this project to proceed.”

[...]Critics say that all-or-nothing mentality has shifted attention from the merits of the drive-through request and onto the hyper-political debate over Fry Street Village.

“This environment stems from the idea that whatever is the outcome of the vote is tied to whether the project goes forward or not,” said council member Chris Watts. “And I think that’s unfortunate.”
As I've said many times before (click the "Fry Street" tag at the bottom of this post for all my thoughts on this subject), this thing has been handled incorrectly from day one. The proper way to do this--"proper" both in terms of historical preservation and getting off on the right foot with the community from which United Equities is hoping to develop customers--would have been to 1) use the former FEMA call center building at Oak and Welch--which once was an Eckerd drugstore (CVS' predecessor in this area)--for the CVS; 2) keep the historic 1925 buildings that housed The Tomato, renovate it to current standards, and attract other student-friendly restaurants while keeping the iconic Tomato intact. The rest of the development as it is currently planned would have been fine with me, but the vintage architecture and eclectic eateries would prove to be a far superior "gateway" to the university than a big, ugly drugstore. (And that's no slam on CVS--I'm a customer myself--but you see those everywhere. The old buildings were special, and they're a much more appropriate thing to have across the street from a college campus than a generic chain drugstore.) But, as we know, United Equities doesn't appear to care about anything besides the almighty dollar, so I hope its proposal goes down in flames tonight.

Granted, if the whole development does go belly-up, the old buildings have still been lost to a combination of arson and the wrecking ball, but that would open the door for another developer to come in and do the right thing (which,in my mind, would be to build replicas of the old buildings and develop things as described above). One would hope that, if this were to come to pass, that someone would be ready to step up to the plate.

One more thing: A former Dentonite visited this blog through the original "Save Fry Street!" post from May, 2006. He/she has been out of town for a while and had just now heard about the Fry Street debacle, which is making a return to Denton much less pleasant for this person.

I'll come back on with an update when the City Council vote is reported, assuming that actually happens tonight.

Even for politicians, this doesn't make sense: About an hour after the initial post, one of my friends, upon reading the DRC article, pointed out this interesting quote from Mayor Perry McNeil:
“I’ve had a lot of feedback on that and surprisingly … it’s probably roughly 4-1 to saying, ‘What is the problem? Get that thing approved and get it built.’” he said. “But the silent majority is who I’m hearing from.”
Umm, Mr. Mayor, how exactly do you "hear" from the silent majority?

And one more:
[Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Joe] Mulroy said he wasn’t prepared to say whether the drive-through would fit in with the pedestrian area.

“I have yet to see a final site plan, so I really don’t know what they’re actually proposing,” he said. “It’s a legitimate point. There will be plenty of discussion.”
OK, so you're voting on this without having seen the final plan? What's wrong with this picture??

Now you see why the actions of politicians keep bloggers busy. More later...

UPDATE: Yesssssssssss!!!! There'll be more in the morning, I'm sure.

NEXT MORNING UPDATE: Full story here.


hiddenagenda said...

What goes around comes around!!!!!! Personally I hope the whole damn thing falls thru. Then the developer would know how the owners of the Tomato and the other businesses felt as they watched their livelihood of over 20 years go down the tubes! No, it won't hit him in the heart (which I doubt he even has) like it did the rest of us, but it sure will impact his wallet! Poetic justice, don't cha think!?

Kev said...

I totally agree. As I said in the post, it would be great to see UE get out of this deal and have someone come in who will properly integrate this development into the neighborhood and restore the gateway to the university.

Thanks for visiting!

hiddenagenda said...

NBD....it's like reading a condensed version of the news!