They called it “Denton ... News 2025: ‘Create the Dream.’”
In 2003, Denton City Council members Mark Burroughs, Raymond Redmon, Pete Kamp, Jack Thomson, Perry McNeil and Bob Montgomery and Mayor Euline Brock contemplated Denton’s future and shared their hopes and dreams of what Denton would look like in 2025.
Affordable housing, fair representation on the council, lower taxes and unprecedented growth — their wishes for Denton’s future — have been recurring themes each election season since they put them in a time capsule for future Denton residents, city leaders and elected officials.
“Greetings, Denton residents of the year 2025,” Brock begins in her Sept. 5, 2003, message from the mayor. “At the time this is being written, September of 2003, it is my honor to be Mayor of this wonderful community as we create this time capsule. We have been asked to write our dreams of what Denton will be like in the year 2025, when this capsule is opened. I am hoping that our dreams of today will all come to fruition and will be everyday reality for those of you living in Denton in 2025.”
Twenty years later, Denton City Manager Sara Hensley shared their messages in a Jan. 20 report to the current council. She wrote in the report that sharing information she finds insightful, interesting or timely is simply “to make the Council aware of broad perspectives and discussions and not to suggest any policy or service change.”
“As we inch closer to that year, I hope this document helps inspire you as we collectively set the stage for Denton’s next 20 years.”
The Denton Record-Chronicle contacted members of the current Denton City Council and the mayor to get their thoughts on what their 2003 predecessors had envisioned for Denton’s future in 2025 and, in turn, asked for their vision for Denton in 2050. Their responses, lightly edited for clarity, are below.
Gerard Hudspeth, mayor: ‘Growing Denton’s unique culture and identity’
It is very interesting to read what the mayor and council members’ vision for Denton was in 2003, and how accurate many of their predictions were. Their goals are similar to many of the same goals that we have today — maintaining and growing Denton’s unique culture and identity. Many of the things that they saw in Denton’s future, the council is discussing.
If I were to look 25 years into the future from today, I see Interstate 35 will still be under construction and Locust and Elm will be city streets. The train quiet zones will be complete in the core of the city (no more train horns downtown). I also see a Denton where the unique opportunities are preserved and amplified — more opportunities for art, live music, small businesses, affordable housing and a community where individuals are celebrated.
Growth in educational opportunities between Denton ISD, Texas Woman’s University, the University of North Texas and North Central Texas College will impact our community. Denton Municipal Electric is currently a renewable energy leader, and I anticipate that they will continue to lead the way and be an example of how municipal energy can be sustainable and affordable at the same time.
Denton Enterprise Airport is currently one of the state’s busiest airports, and as we continue to move forward, I think that Denton has a real opportunity for specialized growth because of the ease of getting into and out of the city. This opens up a lot of possibilities and one that I would like to see is to bring in more sports. Whether that’s amateur, college, semi-pro or a minor league team, this city gets behind and supports our local teams, and I think that will be attractive as franchises are looking for a home. Maybe Denton will have a professional pickleball team.
There is a lot to look forward to in Denton. We have always been a community who is not shy about making our own path forward, and I am excited for what is ahead.
Vicki Byrd, District 1: ‘Spot on with their visions’
Collectively, the 2003 council was spot on with their visions for the future. Their hope and determination for a brighter future is admirable at best. The factors involving growth and the betterment of the community is by far, the connected response from all councilors. I suspect that after observing our current responses from current councilors, you will find hope.
I’ve come to recognize that we all want to live in a “utopia” where our space is just perfect for us and we (the people) will literally defend the status quo by stating “not in my backyard” and “I pay my taxes” to basically demand that everything does not have to change. I believe councilors hear the mantra rooted in “comfortable” and “familiar.” The advancements made since then have created a community that has obviously moved towards a sense of “entitlement.” Being on the Denton City Council has allowed me to see the big picture in growth, as well as observe the (bridezilla) moments that come with rapid growth. I’ve often described Denton as “a pimply faced older teen that is at a crossroads” trying to make the best decision about their future. Imagine that.
I trust that the current administration is going to guide us to greatness (building out Denton’s extraterritorial jurisdiction) in all ways possible. I appreciate the transparency, the inclusion, the hands-on approach. The connectivity — with Denton ISD, the nonprofits, the neighborhoods, the economic development, the tourism, large corporations and local businesses, the transportation, emergency management, the homeless and the diverse community — has to be well established in order for a vision into 2050 to come to fruition as planned. It should be inclusive for all that hope to reside here.
In 2050, we are going to enjoy planned development where varying housing will be within walking and biking distance from shops, schools and other services. There may be at at least 200,000 residents, a massive growth at the airport, a toll road up through to Oklahoma, significant entertainment facilities north of the city towards Sanger, luxury living, affordable housing, continued road construction, the best school district for learning and employment, a conscientious police force, beautiful parks, a better transportation system and a feel of home with “big city amenities” in our favor.
Just think, I will be 85 years old in 2050 and for sure complaining about those people on the Denton City Council not knowing what they are doing about meeting my needs and desires. To them, I say ... thank you for your service.
Mayor Pro Tem Brian Beck, District 2: ‘The baton they raised two decades ago’
While each councilor had their own particularly vision, particularly on the scale of the population, I’m struck by the unanimity of many of their aspirations:
- Tree preservation and environmental stewardship
- Protection of historic districts
- Wide adoption of mass transit
- A focus on quality of life, particularly the unique blend of arts and music (especially jazz) that makes Denton stand out
- Leveraging of our academic strengths in engineering and health
- Development of live-work-play mixed-use neighborhoods, particularly downtown
Twenty years ago, four years before I even moved to Denton, my predecessors on council had a shared vision for the same type of Denton I do. I feel privileged that the baton they raised two decades ago is the one I can pick up and carry for the city of Denton and its citizens today. Even areas hit hard by development pressures such that they failed to match the councilors’ dreams, including fast, easy, and efficient mass transit, full downtown redevelopment, and development of smaller mixed-use neighborhoods have not been set aside, but remain aspirational goals even today.
Having had decades of Denton’s continued emphasis on quality of life, art, music and environmental sustainability, it’s easy to predict that in 2050 we will continue to emphasize these areas as we grow towards a population of 230,000-250,000 residents. I’m optimistic that we will be smart enough to not simply choose growth for growth’s sake, but rather smart, targeted growth instead. So here’s a few predictions:
- We will leverage our 100% renewables energy portfolio and emphasis on sustainability to have the lowest carbon footprint per capita of any metro area in our class, through increased efficiencies, green infrastructure, distributed microgrids and demand response strategies.
- We will partner with and amplify our academic offerings by creating a public works academy that sets the standard for regional utility and public safety workers, giving Denton a national training destination presence for working-class professionals.
- The expense of auto-centric development, need for increasing affordable residential density, and the continued emphasis on electrification over thermal production will result in renewed use of both electrified mass transit, but also electrified micro-mobility use (not to be confused with microtransit).
- The I-35, U.S. Highway 380 and DFW outer loop corridors will continue large national chain commercial development. This, however, will allow the downtown region to focus on scale-appropriate local arts and culture development, maintaining the core of Denton supporting both local and regional quality-of-life offerings.
Jesse Davis, District 3: ‘A city that has grown ... but hasn’t lost its heart’
Former council member Jack Thomson’s dreams for the future were fascinating, because he described so well exactly what Denton wanted to become at that time. And he really nailed certain projects the city was involved in that became the catalyst for those dreams coming true. In 2023 people really have moved back downtown as he hoped, and the atmosphere is so vibrant (I remember when it was a ghost town!). We did partner to build a convention center he dreamed about, albeit on the west side of town, which is a huge economic driver. And we still focus on the environment and sustainability, with 100% renewable electricity and efforts like he described to recruit environmentally responsible companies.
I’m going to cheat off of Jack’s work some, because my dream for Denton in 2050 is a city that has grown (as we must), but hasn’t lost its heart. We’re a closer-knit community than most cities our size, and I hope we never lose that. I hope that in 2050 we can look back on the decisions our city leaders have made and appreciate that they put the long-term good above politics. That’s what made some of what Jack dreamed come true.
I also hope that we’ve continued the revitalization downtown, and that we have a robust transit system that makes owning a car in the city core an option, not a necessity. And wouldn’t it be nice to be able to choose a short flight out of the Denton Enterprise Airport for a vacation, or to take the train to DFW or Love Field for a longer flight?
Chris Watts, at-large Place 6: ‘The hope for the soul of our community’
As I read each council member’s dream for 2025, I was reminded of the importance of dreams and aspirations and the roadmaps needed to achieve them. My focus was not on the specific dreams and whether they were achieved but rather the hope for the soul of our community — core values of diversity, compassion, economic opportunity and inclusion. I found those core values in each and every response.
Some of the specific dreams and goals have materialized to some degree. Some have not. The passage of time always includes change. What I believe has stayed constant are those core values.
During my 12-plus years of community service, I have trusted the process. That does not mean things always worked out as I would like. It means there are lessons in every circumstance.
My hope for Denton in the next 25 years is continued commitment to the soul and growth of our community — what I define as our core values.
Our community will have ups and downs. Some things will change and others will stay the same. Notwithstanding our differences, if we maintain our commitment to those core values, our dreams and goals will find their path.
Otherwise our achievements will be hollow and fail to maximize the benefits to our community.
I trust the process.
NOTE: The District 4 council seat remains empty, and at-large Place 5 representative Brandon Chase McGee didn’t respond to requests for comment.
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