Garland, The Town Texas Forgot
Or maybe not.
Garland is a suburban city just northeast of Dallas and east of my town, Richardson. Being tucked away from most major highways, many of the newer corporations (and their wealth) that are settling in north Texas, seemed to stay away – bringing better economy to the rest of the metroplex. With the exception of the growth along the PGB Tollway and the Firewheel Town Center, Garland seemed to truly be a forgotten town in north Texas.
On my typical drives through Garland I’m always left wondering, what has happened to this town? What seemed like grand, old shopping centers are abandoned and left for dust. Empty lots are ignored and overgrown. Sidewalks and streets are cracked and sprinkled with debris and litter. Used car lots, fast food restaurants and thrift shops seem to outnumber grocery stores. Garland is old and showing it’s years – at least to those driving by.
I took a spin through the heart of the city this morning expecting nothing more than a few colorful and well textured photos. I figured that I would at least get a nice ride and satisfy any curiosity I might have for exploring my neighboring town.
My first impression of Garland is that the drivers are less than friendly to cyclists. You can tell this by the way they over-rev their engines as they pass you. Like most Texas drivers, I expect that they are just not used to seeing too many bicycle riders around town and don’t have the patience to go around them. I mostly stick with back streets, but since I’m not too familiar with those in Garland, I had to keep to the sidewalks of the main streets.
As I rode into town, my expectations were met as I came across several run-down businesses and shopping centers. The discoveries were sad but interesting which lead me explore more and drive myself towards downtown.
As I got closer to downtown Garland, I started to notice that the surrounding homes were getting nicer. Some of the older buildings and churches appeared to be better maintained and, in contrast to some of the previous shopping centers, occupied. This looked promising.
Unexpectedly, when I arrived to the downtown area, I discovered a nice little town center that seemed on the verge of being completely revitalized. Some of the older buildings have been restored, and there was the presence of some new urban-type development. Loft like apartments were springing up just south of the DART rail station which complimented the new Patty Granville Art Center very well.
I’ve seen this type of suburban-urban development in Plano, Addison and Richardson, but somehow, they didn’t seem as well executed as what I saw in Garland. I’m starting to see a really nice destination being developed here and I hope to see it thrive.
Garland has taken me by surprise. I would never have expected to see this small pocket of cool in an area with such unappreciated surroundings. To be honest, I was feeling a bit jealous. It just goes to show you that you really can’t judge a book by it’s cover. If you have a town like Garland in your neck of the woods, don’t just write it off. Take a chance and explore it on your bike. You never know what you might find.
At this point, my only true criticism is that it isn’t very bicycle safe. I hope bike friendly routes are in the plan for Garland.