Denison: Preserving the past, moving toward the future

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DENISON, TX-As we reported earlier in the newscast, the Schuler Development could be just months from breaking ground on a development eventually building 10,000 new homes. This is just the latest big change for the city of Denison. But it's one of many improvements the city has announced over the past few years to promote growth and more development in the city.

Denison City Manager, Robert Hanna, said the city's population has been static since the 70's and they are hoping to change that. That's why in the past two years city leaders, along with school officials, made decisions that will change the face of Denison by the next 15 years.

Denise Brownfield lived in Denison all her life and said it's been a while since she's seen any new developments in her hometown.

"I love Denison, I've been here my whole life. I do think that the changes they've been wanting to make would be great for downtown, looking forward to the changes in the schools too," she said.

May 2011, voters passed an $80-million bond to build a new Denison High School and upgrade older school buildings. Superintendent, Dr. Henry Scott said right now, the new high school is 35% finished.

"I just think it's wonderful that we reached this point, this has been in the planning stage for years," he said.

Scott said the current high school is almost 60 years old and is overcrowded. He said the new 280,000 square foot building will be able to support student growth and it's also built to last.

"It's built for the future because the 1954 high school was built for a time that was totally different, without technology and things of that nature," he said.

But to make room for the future growth, Denison had to say a bittersweet goodbye to a piece of their past. Layne Elementary was torn down in December and Golden Rule Elementary will be closed in 2014.

"I'm sad about the ones that are gonna close because I'm at one of them. But I think this means more community advancement and the opportunity for more people to come in. People look at schools when they want to move in our area," said Brownfield.

Denison residents are also preparing to say goodbye to another piece of history, the old Katy Antique Station. City officials agreed to demolish the century old building in September, three years after one of its walls collapsed.

"Nobody likes to tear down old buildings, they're part of our history and if we can find ways in the private sector to keep them we will," said Hanna.

Hanna said the risks outweigh the benefits of keeping the building up. Not only will it cost millions to restore, he said it's also dangerous.

"The building, its current condition is unsafe. It's a hazard to the public. It's a danger to the public that's why the city's tearing it down," he said.

"I hate to see the building go, but if somebody's not gonna get in there to fix it, tear it down. If they don't want to spend the money to fix it, get rid of it before some kids are playing by it and it caves in on them," said resident, Chuck Burroughs.

A piece of history the city is still trying to save -- the bricks that line Chestnut street from Eisenhower to Barrett.

"What's happened in the past is if there's a waterline break. The crews have to go in there and it's not as easy as if when you put the bricks back and so they put asphalt patches and different things."

The bricks are part of Denison's heritage. They've endured bad weather, constant traffic and waterline breaks for the last hundred years. That's why Main Street Director, Donna Dow said the city is looking for a way to restore the bricks.

"Everybody would like to do, I think if we have all the money in the world is to preserve the bricks on Chestnut because it adds so much character," she said.

But while the city is trying to hold on to its history, it's also reaching for the future. Dow said they are planning to make downtown more accessible for residents by widening sidewalks and making curbs ADA compliant.

"Denison has a unique future ahead of it and it's a very special future and it's a powerful future, one that we can be proud of. We just have to make sure if reflects the desires of the community. We should protect our assets," said Hanna.

Hanna said the demolition of the Katy Antique Station will start as soon as they receive the agreement from the contractor. Dow said plans for downtown's streetscape project and Chestnut street bricks will be back on the agenda March 4th. And Dr. Scott said the new Denison High School, along with other school improvements and Munson stadium are expected to be done by next year.

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