Update: The Cross Timbers Gazette reports that Old Town Market is under contract for a new location in Double Oak on Chinn Chapel Road.
Original: A Lewisville institution of over 40 years may leave the city soon. Its owners wouldn’t talk to us on the record, but an intermediary claims their move has something to do with the city’s plans to redo Mill Street. And the social media uproar has led to the mayor issuing a statement from the city.
Winston Edmondson, who lost his bid for the mayor’s seat in May, announced on Facebook Sunday he had heard a rumor the market was closing.
“From what I heard, the City is changing policies in Old Town, and it’s basically forcing them out,” Edmondson posted. “I’m trying to get more information to find out exactly what’s going on.”
For its part, Lewisville government said it’s not forcing the Old Town Market out, and would prefer they stay.
“They are exactly the type of business we like to have in Old Town,” said James Kunke, the city’s communications and tourism director. Assistant city manager Claire Swann agreed. Mayor Rudy Durham’s statement on Wednesday echoed that.
“First, let me say without hesitation that the City of Lewisville (and I personally) would like to see Old Town Market continue to operate in the location and manner it has been. It is the type of business we want to see in Old Town – a thriving retail operation, a unique dining opportunity, and a regional reputation and customer base,” Durham wrote. “If something I have said somewhere along the way has given a different impression, I apologize for that. Let me say it again in very clear language – as a resident and as mayor, I want Old Town Market to stay in place.”
City Council held an unrelated discussion Monday night regarding the city’s preferred zoning for the area of Old Town from Main Street to College. The area they discussed does not include the Old Town Market. Edmondson put up another Facebook post Monday afternoon posing a hypothetical question: “If there are businesses in Lewisville that you don’t like, would you want the City Council to re-zone them out of existence?”
That led to multiple council members saying that some people on Facebook are simply looking to cause trouble, and that residents should not let rumors get them riled up. Council member Brent Daniels urged people to contact him directly with their questions.
“When you hear something that sounds like a lie, it probably is,” Daniels said.
Kunke told The Lewisville Texan Journal the city had invested in the Old Town Market with matching grants in 2013 to help improve the property. A $16,228 city grant included money for aesthetic work, a storage building, and 10 spot parking lot in back.
Those 10 new parking spots, according to a 2013 letter where co-owner Shawn Knowles requested the grant, were to allow for parking that might be lost due to the renovation of Mill Street.
But this year when Lewisville asked the market to sign over an easement to expand the city’s right of way and increase street parking, the market refused.
In a March 13 email to city engineer David Salmon, co-owner Sharon Knowles turned down the offer, stating only that in the best interest for Old Town Market, they would not be signing it.
The Mill Street project covers the area from College Street on the north through S.H. 121 Business at the south, converting from a four-lane artery with no street parking to a three-lane urban thoroughfare. The updated Mill Street will have two travel lanes, a turn lane, a bike lane, parallel and back-in street parking, enhanced landscaping and ADA accessible sidewalks.
The $5.5 million in improvements are paid mostly with grants, $3 million of which comes from the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
The project, as proposed, impacts Old Town Market not only by taking away the driveway entrance to an informal alley, which leads to the 10 parking spots in back, but by taking away enough space that the seven current front-in spaces in front of the market would go away.
Salmon’s email to the market in February stated that the project added seven total spaces between Elm Street and Purnell. But in the immediate area around Old Town Market, the schematic shows a decrease in spaces.
The seven proposed back-in angle parking spaces span the front of the market as well as its next door neighbor to the north. That property and its alley are owned by Centurion American, which is the developer of the South Village residential townhome development north and west of the market.
Though many Old Town Market visitors park along the south side of the building, that lot belongs to another owner. Old Town Market would lose its seven private spaces up front, have reduced access to its 10 spaces in back and share seven public back-in spaces with its neighbor, who is also losing three spaces.
Without passage between the buildings, in order for customers to reach the market’s back parking lot, they would have to drive a 1,254-foot route down Mill Street to Elm Street, through the residential South Village neighborhood to Samuel Street.
With the market’s rejection of the city’s request to take additional right of way without compensation, Salmon said the city’s plan reverts to parallel parking in front of the market, which changes to two spots instead of seven.
Kunke said it could be possible for the property owners to reach agreement on the alley, but that even so, putting a driveway there would remove two parallel or five angle parking spots.
Kunke said that a majority of those parking in back currently access it from the west side through the neighborhood. For that entrance, Kunke said the city had agreed to let the owners install a sign.
Another issue for the market, according to Edmondson, is access for delivery trucks. Aerial maps show the area is already tricky to get an 18-wheeler delivery truck into without encroaching on others’ property. With the planned changes, a truck would either have to enter the residential neighborhood behind the market and park on the street a distance away, or stop in a lane of traffic, potentially blocking in people parked in the new spaces.
Kunke expressed confidence that the city would work out something for deliveries. The city recently instituted loading zones for the businesses on Main Street, allowing trucks to park in traffic lanes for limited periods. He did not think that deliveries would work to the back of the property through the residential neighborhood.
Part of the problem that makes the rear parking less accessible is the closure of a former private street that locals used to refer to as Samuels street. Although it was part of the King Drug parcel, and never formally dedicated to the city as a street, it was used for rear access for the market and two other businesses to the north.
Kunke said the city joined conversations about that access with Centurion American and the business owners in 2014 when demolition of the old shopping center began.
“The private drive they were using to access the lot was about to be removed, but we worked with them and the South Village developer on an alternate plan so they could retain that access,” Kunke said.
City Manager Donna Barron was trying to setup a meeting with Shawn Knowles to discuss his concerns, according to Kunke.
Additional help could come from South Village’s developer. Kunke hinted in a meeting with the city Wednesday morning the developer had brought up some options at his expense. The city has not released details yet of what those might be.
In any case, the property, which is on the Denton County tax rolls at $303,590 is listed for sale on commercial real estate website LoopNet, at $799,000.
Mayor Durham said that the Mill Street Corridor Plan needs to move forward.
“Doing nothing is not an option, because if nothing is done then that area could take another 20 years to enjoy the turnaround that already is sweeping through the Main Street core,” Durham wrote.