In The Weeds 3/28/15: Visions from 50 Years Ago

Almost 50 years ago, in 1966, the City of Denton hired the firm of Marvin, Springer and Associates of Dallas to address concerns about the Square and we have the published results here. Entitled “A Planning Study for Improvement of the Denton Downtown Area”, one of report’s findings is, “if the development around the Courthouse Square is to remain an important retail center in Denton, it will be necessary to provide substantially improved facilities for the pedestrian”. Sound familiar? Its interesting from a lay person’s point of view to see how these problems were identified and addressed in that point in time by those urban planners. To put this study in historical context, this was during the time when the City was working with famed architect  O’Neil Ford of Ford, Powell and Carson to complete the Municipal Complex in the park with a new city hall, civic center, library expansion, etc. Denton was trying present itself as a modern city (much like they did in the 1920’s with the construction of the 1927 City Hall, now City Hall West) and was probably concerned with how the Square was faring at the same time. Here is a map of the then-existing pedestrian facilities/sidewalks (click on image for larger version):

ExistingPedestrian003

Along with accompanying photos of some concerns back in the 1960’s:

PedestrianPhoto004

One concept they recommended was the conversion of the Square to a “plaza arrangement” where there would be more pedestrian-friendly intersections, trees, fountains, etc. Here is an example of an intersection:

IntersectionTreatment006

As you can see, this is actually very close to what we have now, minus some of the trees. Next we have a partial scan of the whole Courthouse complex plan:

CourthouseTreatment007

In the list of recommended “basic principles and guides” for improvement of downtown, the following nugget is found:

“3. The Downtown Area should become an increasingly important place for meetings, business activities and even for art shows, business shows and other cultural activities.”

The study covers alot more than what we’re presenting here, obviously, but its interesting to see some of the same objectives and concerns raised two generations ago. In many ways and for many reasons it looks as though we’ve gotten there.

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