Aubrey working to draw interest in lots along 377

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AUBREY — A small neighborhood hidden behind a row of trees and a few empty commercial lots along U.S. Highway 377 in southeast Aubrey is the target of a city rehabilitation and development plan.

Officials have targeted the area as a part of a community revitalization strategy to attract more commercial and retail businesses and add new housing.

The area can be identified by the few “commercial lots for sale” signs that are staked into the ground around the properties.

Since the beginning of the year, Mayor Gary Hammett and the City Council have entered an ongoing discussion with the public to gather input about what types of businesses residents would like to see in the vacant lots.

“I want to know what they want as we move forward,” he said. “This is a project for the community.”

Filling the lots will require the city to put up the funds necessary to attract business, which includes expanding the infrastructure, he said.

“This is a zone that has some existing buildings, homes and infrastructure,” Hammett said. “We’re redeveloping this area to get other parts of it to develop.”

The small number of residents living within the area declined to comment on the plan, but they said they were on board with adding some businesses nearby.

Hammett said the city has a good track record of making smart investments to attract developers, using the city’s U.S. Highway 377 corridor as an example.

He estimates that at least 70 percent of the city’s sales revenue originates from business in the corridor.

“Most of our businesses are there now because our boards went out and made investments,” he said. “Prior to 2000, there was hardly anything out there.”

Hammett said filling the lots will not happen overnight.

“Rayzor Ranch sat undeveloped in Denton since I was boy,” he said. “The only thing we can do is make the lot more attractive to the developer.”

During a recent City Council meeting, officials published a development plan that outlines their goals for the defined area, which sits between U.S. 377 and Highland Oaks Road, near the high school.

According to city documents, the area is zoned multiuse, which allows commercial and multifamily development.

Over the years, some investments have been made into the Springhill area, but officials said many projects never gained momentum because goals were not prioritized.

“The area seems to be developing without us doing much to it,” said Chantel Kirkland, city planner. “But by having a plan, we can guide the development more efficiently.”

According to city officials, developing a strategy to redevelop the area has been a goal since 2003, but the project never got started because of economic changes and lack of a plan.

However, city officials hope to use the development plan as a guide to help the city reach its goals.

Kirkland said she expects the plan to stay fluid to allow for easier changes if needed.

“Some of these items won’t get addressed anytime soon,” she said. “We are trying to think long-term and we’ll revisit each once it’s the right time to address it.”

In addition to filling the empty lots, city officials also seek to beef up code enforcement, rehabilitate homes, develop pedestrian-friendly amenities and expand infrastructure.

The city also expressed interest in applying for grants to help with facade improvements and other beatification projects.

JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882. His e-mail address is jharden@dentonrc.com.


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