The Denison Historic Preservation Board unanimously approved a request for a new food truck park at 231 W. Crawford in Denison during a special session Wednesday afternoon. The request comes just one week after the Denison Planning and Zoning Commission gave initial approval for an ordinance change to allow food truck parks in the city and set regulations.
The Denison City Council is expected to discuss the ordinance change and make a final decision in early August.
Kevin Hempkins, representing property owner Hempkins Partners, presented plans to convert a former Chevrolet dealership lot into a new food truck park. Initial plans for the site call for space to house between three and seven food trucks at any one time with a stage for live music and performances and dedicated dining area. Hempkins said he plans to have the park up and active in time for the first game of the high school football season.
“This is the where and what but the when is still up in the air,” he said during the meeting.
Wednesday’s discussion was the second time the historic preservation board has discussed food trucks this year. In March, the board received a request for a food truck park on Main Street. Developers planned to remove the back portion of an 114-year-old building to house food trucks on a regular basis. Organizers said the idea was inspired by the successes vendors had last year when the city hosted a temporary ice rink in downtown.
Concept art for the location featured signs labeling it “The Lot” with musical elements and notes incorporated into the site as artistic elements, similar to art featured along Main Street. The site will also feature dedicated, permanent restrooms on site for dining patrons. Plans also call for small trees throughout the site to offer some shaded dining space.
Hempkins said development on the project started several months ago and was inspired by the improvements and investment the city was making on Chestnut Street. He added that he also found inspiration in cities in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex that have done similar projects in recent years. When asked if he felt Texoma was a large enough market for to support dedicated food trucks, Hempkins said he is optimistic.
“That’s what I am hoping for,” he said. “Obviously you are going to be going into these things with either blind optimism or a vision of what could come.”
Hempkins said his family acquired the lot several years ago along with the nearby Bank of America building and motor bank, located about a block from the proposed food truck park.
The city has since purchased the former bank building with plans to convert it into a new city hall building. As a part of the agreement with Hempkins Partners for the building, the city agreed the demolish the former motor bank.
Since the demolition, Hempkins Partners and officials with Subway Restaurants revealed plans to build a new location at the former motor bank site. The future restaurant was also discussed during Wednesday’s meeting; the Historic Preservation Board approved lighted signage for the location.
Hempkins said the location, near the intersection of a highway and major Denison thoroughfare, made it a prime location for restaurants. However, he said the food truck park would have a different focus and feel compared to other nearby restaurants.
“I can see that area being a hub,” he said, “but we are not going to just be a place to get something to eat; we are going to be a social venue.”
Hempkins said he has made initial agreements for a taco truck and a barbecue truck contingent on the project moving forward. By the time development and construction starts, Hempkins said he is looking for other trucks to join in as early tenants on the site.
When asked if the initial trucks would be mobile, Hempkins said they would be able to move for special events and for service and upkeep, but the park would be their primary location.
Main Street Director Donna Dow said the food truck park, as a series of small restaurants, could become a destination location and draw crowds to downtown. Additionally, it would create a level of diversity in the city’s downtown dining options, she said.
“It creates activity there, it provides different dining options and creates a festival atmosphere for people coming to our football games,” she said.
Last week, Denison P&Z granted initial approval for a set of regulations for food truck parks that would allow them in certain districts with a conditional use permit. Interim Planning Director Phyllis Jarrell said this was designed to give city officials some oversight in where food trucks can do business and protect certain other developments, including residential neighborhoods.
With the City Council expected to discuss food truck parks in early August, Jarrell said the earliest that Hempkins would be able to apply for a permit would be in September. However, a special event permit could allow him to start service earlier.