“Things will be great when you’re downtown…” That Petula Clark song was a big hit about the time that things were really starting to change in Plano and especially in old downtown.
The few square blocks, which included a furniture store, familyowned department store, five and dime, jewelers, and barbershop, among other small offices and businesses, was a commercial hub in south Collin County. And then in the late 1960s, development began in earnest. The march westward was underway, away from downtown. Businesses closed or relocated to new shopping centers where the action was. The first modern renaissance for downtown had begun. Antique shops and tea rooms replaced those longstanding small family businesses, and the area became more a weekend destination than a commercial hub. Most shops weren’t open on Mondays and closed at 5 p.m. weekdays. The pace slowed to a crawl.
But the past decade has seen the hub of activity return to the old brick street. An eclectic mix of restaurants, shops, taverns, and most importantly high-rise apartments is changing once again the face of downtown. Certainly the arrival of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit trains has helped target the area for Dallas-bound commuters.
City government has a real stake in downtown with the municipal building, police station, courthouse, and central fire station all within blocks of the “new” old downtown. Projects currently underway are the expansion of McCall Plaza including a new outdoor performance stage, and the refurbishing of the historic Saigling house in Haggard Park which will become the home of the ArtCentre of Plano. These efforts along with existing galleries, party venues and the Courtyard Theater will continue to further brand downtown as a place for the arts.
The relocation of the Plano Parks and Recreation Department to Oak Point Park will make room for a fourth residential community high-rise set for construction to begin later this year.
While there may not be so much neon light or any movie shows of which Petula Clark sang, there is change afoot in downtown Plano, again.
So go downtown and see for yourself.
On a very sad note, an old friend of the city and Collin County and a pioneer of that changing downtown 40 years ago, Tino Trujillo, died at his boyhood home in Mexico in June. In 1976 Tino opened one of Plano’s first full-service restaurants on Avenue K across from the current city hall.
A community leader of the first order, he was a devoted Rotarian organizing many special support efforts by his local club for his native Mexico. An army veteran and proud American, Tino was a founding member of the board of trustees of the Collin County Community College District where he served five terms. The college hosted a memorial service in July at the Spring Creek campus in Plano where longtime friends and colleagues recalled his dedicated service and his fun-loving nature.
Tino will be remembered by his close friends for his warm and welcoming nature, a perfect restaurateur. Tino’s Mexican Restaurant and Cantina was a place of regulars, a kind of Cheers meeting place where Tino always knew your name.
He served as chairman of the board of the Plano Chamber of Commerce. The chamber honored him in 1985 as the Small Businessman of the Year, and later in 1987 Tino was named the Citizen of the Year.
Fortino Pinea Trujillo was a happy man who enjoyed making others happy. He will surely be missed.