DENTON (CBSDFW.COM) – The City of Denton is offering a financial ‘carrot’ to attract more businesses to its downtown area. And with $50,000 up for grabs the lure seems to be working.

Contractors are making final preparations at Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers in Denton. The hope is to open the new restaurant in a couple of weeks.

“A lot of due diligence went into picking this location,” said owner Martha Jensen.

The ambiance of downtown Denton and character of the old buildings were two of the reasons Jensen chose the area.

“It’s Far East, meets far west, meets far out,” she said.

Turning the old warehouse into a new restaurant hasn’t been easy, or cheap. “[It’s] well worth it, but a big investment,” Jensen said.

Denton Economic Development Program Administrator Julie Glover agrees. “You’ve got to upgrade the water, the sewer, the electric. When you turn a warehouse into a restaurant there are a lot of things involved.”

That’s why the city is paying for some of the improvements at the Mellow Mushroom and other businesses.
The downtown incentive reimbursement grant helps prospective business owners. “It’s basically free money,” said Glover.

The $50,000 grant program is part of the city’s plan to increase economic development downtown and attract more businesses and ultimately more people.

The Denton County Transportation Authority now runs a train from Denton to Dallas. The ease of transportation is one of the reasons Denton leaders are hoping the downtown area will become a destination — not only for residents but also for visitors from all across North Texas.

“When you get something like a restaurant or a live music venue that brings people in,” explained Glover. “Then people spend money here, they hang around, [and] they buy a meal, drinks.”

Residents and visitors who spoke with CBS 11 News thought the program was a wise investment.

“Downtown is where everyone hangs out,” said resident Juan Garcia.

Resident Destani Lewis was excited by the concept. “It’s great! It’s fabulous and it adds culture and taste to the community,” she said.

Josh Weaver said he’d been in the area long enough to remember a very different downtown. “This area was nothing before a few years ago. Now it’s a place we come really on a daily basis, a great place for lunch, a great place for dinner.”

Money from the grant program is distributed to new businesses, which haven’t started construction, and already established businesses wanting to expand.

Businesses can apply for the Downtown Incentive Reimbursement Grant beginning October 1. Click here for more information.

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