With one-of-a-kind restaurants and eclectic shops, Old Town Keller has never lacked charm. What it has been missing is cohesiveness with branding, artwork, roads and other infrastructure to really create a sense of place in the city’s original downtown.
The city’s $4.25 million Old Town Keller improvement project completely overhauled the infrastructure with expanded streets, sidewalks, public spaces and entryways. After more than a year of construction, workers are finishing a few last-minute punch list items. Meanwhile, three new restaurants have opened or plan to open in Old Town Keller, adding to the vibrancy. So far, Seven Mile Cafe and Roscoe’s Smokehouse have opened while The Station is just starting to remodel the interior of its new restaurant.
"All three said if it hadn’t been for the improvements they wouldn’t have come here," said Trina Zais, director of public services and economic development.
The goal was to make changes while staying true to the character of Old Town Keller.
"Old town is really eclectic. That’s exactly how it’s written in the code," Zais said. "We’ve got things that look very historic. We have things that look fairly modern. We have things that are just eclectic."
Uniting them all is a new pedestrian promenade that runs along the back of the restaurants and shops. The brick pathway is adorned with steel archways, lighting and common area spaces where people can meet and congregate. This means people no longer have to walk along the busy Highway 377 to go from one restaurant to another.
If they do choose to walk along U.S. 377, there’s a new rail along the sidewalk to make it safer.
Ann Gibson Insurance Agency gave a grant to the city of Keller to put in a life-size game board that can be used for chess and checker games. There are also musical note tiles and talk tubes for children to play on.
"You can be in your own world in Old Town as opposed to feeling like you are right on 377," Zais said. "You feel the energy of all of the restaurants here not just one. You’re not just coming down here and parking and going to one restaurant. You’re spending the day."
Keller already put out a call for artists for nine smaller pieces of art that will be placed on pedestals along the pedestrian walkway. Larger, more expensive pieces of artwork are planned in two key locations that will become landmarks in Old Town Keller.
The smaller artwork will be rotated out every few years.
Seven Mile Cafe branching out
The former Keller City Hall has been transformed into the new Seven Mile Cafe.
"We took it down to the studs and rebuilt the place," said co-owner Kevin Klingele. "They’re almost done. There’s parking, walking areas, benches and trees. It’s like a whole different Old Town."
It’s the second location for Seven Mile Cafe, which got its start in Denton.
Klingele had so much success in the area that he recently opened another restaurant concept nearby in Fort Worth.
Breckies, which focuses on brunch delivery, opened this month at 5250 N. Tarrant Parkway Suite 130 in Fort Worth. The restaurant delivers brunch favorites and Intellgentsia Coffee & Tea to a four-mile radius.
Breckies has many of the same menu items that Seven Mile Cafe offers with limited dine-in seats and its own team of drivers for deliveries.
Not many restaurants offer brunch delivery from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. unless they use UberEats or a similar service.
"That was the inspiration for it," he said. "We wanted to be able to offer it this for how the world is changing."
It also allows Seven Mile Cafe to focus on the customers who come into the restaurant.
"Can’t have deliveries clogging that up to where it’s going to hurt the experiences of our guests," Klingele said. "There was no way we were going to risk sacrificing wait time on the weekends."