New lease on life

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Al Key/DRC
Twisted Bodies instructor Megan Anderson does a spine stretch on a Pilates Reformer Tuesday July 30, 2013, in Denton.
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Fresh look draws tenants to long out-of-date plaza

Just ask Joe Galaviz. The owner of Casa Galaviz is excited.

On Tuesday he was all smiles as he commented on recent changes to Denton Plaza.

“We have had the parking lot resurfaced before and had the building painted,” he said. “But in the whole time that I have been here, no one has ever done any of these upgrades.”

Galaviz’s Mexican restaurant has been in Denton Plaza at Elm and Prairie streets since November 1987.

The recent upgrades to the retail center include new signs, a leveled foundation, a new roof, parking lot improvements and fresh paint. Renovations of the 15,000-square-foot building began last fall as soon as the team at Saratan Corp. took over the center.

“As far as we know, this is the first time it [the center] had been renovated,” said Sarah Bhagwat, the leader on the project. “While other projects in Denton may seek and receive public-sector financial incentives, the Denton Plaza project did not receive any such consideration — thus, all investments were from private sources.”

The building dates back to 1965, according to the Denton Central Appraisal District.

Julie Glover, Denton’s economic development program administrator said in an e-mail that in the 19 years she has been with the city, she had not learned of any renovations at Denton Plaza.

“He’s really done a great job, insulation, parking lot, new HVAC … ,” Glover said, referring to Suda Bhagwat, who works along with his daughter Sarah.

The reward of renovating the building over the past year is having new tenants become a part of it.

At least seven businesses are now open or will be opening at Denton Plaza in the next couple of weeks:

a restaurant and bar called Irish Boozer owned by Stephen “Blue” Tate, who operates a similar business in Frisco and says the expected opening date is Aug. 17;

the Last Drop Tavern, a bar serving wood-fired brick-oven pizza, owned by Rick Reid, who has more than 25 years of experience in the bar and restaurant business;

Twisted Bodies Pilates & Yoga, which partners Carissa Laitinen-Kniss and Khristen Pahler opened last Monday;

an ethnic grocery store owned and operated by Joseph Kanu, who immigrated from Sierra Leone;

Milestone Annex, operated by Federico Vizcarra, offering a meeting hall and catering facility; and

Elm Smoke Shop & Vapor Shop, operated by Roy Ahluwalia, who has similar shops across the region.

“We have a great mix of tenants, and they all have great services for Denton’s growing populations,” Sarah Bhagwat said.

The tenants agree that the recently renovated building will bring more traffic to the south side of the Square.

“The interior of it was terrible,” Tate said of his space. “Now you wouldn’t recognize it.”

With each business he’s worked on, Tate added, the purpose is to make sure it feels and looks different.

“It was in very bad shape,” Vizcarra said. “The bar that was there before, it had cobwebs and it was filthy and dirty. You would have never thought of going in there.”

Vizcarra said the tenants at Denton Plaza are already working together. Four of Vizcarra’s employees, who are graduates of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Dallas, will be working with Reid, while Reid will be using Milestone Annex’s kitchen to prepare his fresh pizza dough daily.

It is not the first time Saratan Corp. has renovated Denton properties. The team’s first renovation project, the Denton Development Center on Loop 288, took place in 2005-06. In 2011, her team renovated the Congress Center, at 108 S. Congress St., which includes first Milestone Celebrations and Loco Cafe.

Denton Plaza still has 30 percent of space available for leasing, Sarah Bhagwat said. She added that she wants to attract businesses to the plaza that will add more diversity, such as a medical services office, a juice shop, a massage and health spa, or other similar businesses.

Laitinen-Kniss, who moved her yoga and Pilates studio from its previous location on Pecan Street, appreciated the local mix of tenants at the renovated plaza.

“What I love is that it [the building] is all local businesses, and I think that is what sets Denton apart — we have a lot of local business and owners who the community gets behind and supports,” Laitinen-Kniss said. “And you know how they say, ‘Keep Austin weird’ — we really should say, ‘Keep Denton local,’ because that is really what we are.”

Galaviz said he would like all the businesses to work together and possibly host a community block party one day.

“It will be a good way to celebrate,” he said.

KARINA RAMÍREZ can be reached at 940-566-6878 and via Twitter at @KarinaFRamirez.


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