Growing up at the top of what only Denton civic boosters ever call the “Golden Triangle” (of Dallas, Fort Worth, and Denton), I have a longstanding relationship with “the mall” in my hometown. As NBC 5 reported last night, private companies are looking to the city for help in resurrecting the place.
Though I have fond childhood memories of sipping free samples at Orange Julius, getting a little thrill from browsing the naughtier items at Spencer’s, and running back and forth between the two (!) bookstores that were then in operation to determine which would give me a better deal on the latest Xanth-series paperback, I remain keenly aware of one fact: Golden Triangle was, and has always been, an awful mall. Ugly and dark inside, poor selection of shops to browse, few food options.
So when I watch the NBC 5 video (see below) zooming ominously in on the spot where Oshman’s used to be, I feel no sadness. When Vista Ridge Mall in Lewisville opened just 15 to 20 minutes away – way back in 1989 – it condemned Golden Triangle to limp along always as a second-class shopping center. Vista Ridge had two floors! A food court! A movie theater INSIDE the mall! (Golden Triangle’s was originally in a separate building on the edge of the parking lot).
It didn’t make a difference when the Denton mall got a much-ballyhooed re-do 10 or 15 years ago. They changed the carpeting in some spots, repainted, made the interior courtyard a marginally nicer place to be. It was too late. And despite a nauseating influx of restaurants and retail that have finally set up Denton outposts during the last decade (many of them just down the street from the mall, in what not so long ago was nothing but empty fields), few seem interested in being located inside an “introverted” mall anymore. (By the way, read Malcolm Gladwell’s old New Yorker piece about how the inventor of the modern shopping mall was trying to capture the spirit of Vienna’s Ringstrasse with his design. It didn’t work out as planned.)
So, people of Denton, don’t think that any new management company can just slap a new coat of paint on Golden Triangle and expect to succeed. I know there’s nothing sexier these days than a good public-private partnership, but what really needs to happen on that prime real estate at I-35E and Loop 288 is a do-over. Give up. Raze and rebuild … something else. Because getting Hot Topic, and its ilk, to sign long-term leases just isn’t going to cut it.
Here’s the NBC video:
Note to NBC 5 reporter Sara Story: It should sound more like “Dent-in,” not “Den-Ton.”