The Denison City Council approved a $800,000 contract with Toole Design Group for the design and engineering of the first phase of its proposed rebuild and restoration of Main Street on Monday. The project, named Designing Downtown Denison, will see a complete overhaul of Main Street with improvements to infrastructure, sidewalks, the streetscape and the roadway itself.

“This contract will get us up to the construction phase of the first phase of the improvements,” City Manager Jud Rex said.

For the first phase of the project, Denison will focus its efforts on the section of Main Street running from the railroad tracks in the 100 block to Rusk Street. In addition to improving the roadway itself, the project will include upgrades to alleyways in the area — aimed at improving walkability and usability — and public parking lots of Chestnut Street.

At its full length, the project will extend from the 100 block all the way to Armstrong. Along its length, the project could include a number of proposed public amenities, including improvements to Heritage Park and the creation of a civic center and public space in the 700 block.

The talks on large-scale public improvements to Main Street started in late 2016, when the city contracted Toole to do initial concept work on the improvement project. This included initial sketches and conceptual designs and several visioning sessions with area residents on what they would like to see in the future of downtown Denison.

“For the past three months, we have been negotiating with Toole Design Groups for the design phase with this contract,” Public Works Director Bobby Atteberry said, noting the tough negotiation process with Toole.

Atteberry said the design phase is expected to take about 14 months, and will include the bidding process for work.

Rex said the future construction schedule would be based on the funding available at that time. The improvements will be financed using a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, which covers much of downtown Denison and neighboring Morton Street.

Using the zone, the city will set aside future property tax income above the initial values set in 2016. These funds will then be used to finance and pay the debt payments for any bonds for the project.

As the improvements revitalize the district, Rex said city officials hope it will spur private-sector interest and lead to reinvestment. This is turn will add to the TIRZ and make future phases possible.

Rex said city officials decided to start with the east side of Main as many of the buildings and land are unoccupied. This would have a double effect in impacting the least number of people during construction while also hopefully attracting the interest from private investment, Rex said.

Earlier this spring, the city council approved the issuance of $1 million in debt using the TIRZ for the design phase. While the contract is only for $800,000, Rex said the remaining funds will be used for other aspects of the project, including survey work and geotechnical improvements.