As work on Denison’s Main Street approaches, city officials are developing a clearer view of what one of the city’s major avenues could look like in the future. City leaders and consultants with Toole Design Group met last week to discuss planning and design for the first phase of these improvements, starting on East Main Street.
It was during these meetings that officials with the city’s Downtown Design Committee decided not to recommend the inclusion of head-out angled parking as part of the project.
“It was included in the conceptual plans, which were approved by the council last year,” City Manager Jud Rex said of the parking feature that would require cars to back into spaces along Main Street. “We got feedback that residents and downtowners did not want head-out parking.”
Plans for the redevelopment of Main Street first saw momentum in the fall of 2016, when the city contracted with Toole Design to develop initial concept art for proposed improvements to the street. The scale of the project would go well beyond simply the roadway itself and would encompass infrastructure and pedestrian improvements, while also setting the stage for other large-scale public amenities.
“It is not just Main Street designs,” Rex said. “It is designing water, sewer, storm water and other improvements as well.”
At its full length, the project would cover Main Street from the railroad tracks in the 100 block through downtown to the Armstrong intersection. However, the first phase would only extend from the 100 block to Rusk.
Early concepts for the project saw features including dedicated bike lanes, back-in parking and increased pedestrian and sidewalk features. However, the bike lanes, and now parking changes, have since been removed.
Other aspects of the series of improvements remain conceptual at this point. Early concept work included a redesign of downtown’s Heritage Park that would mirror the look of a railroad roundhouse. However, one of the largest improvements proposed would see a community center or event space built in the 700 block of Main on what was the former Denison High School site.
Rex said the decision not to pursue the back-in parking was made before planning on the first phase officially began as it would affect all additional phases of construction. Rex said the parking changes were originally proposed as a safety precaution and as an accessibility feature. The concept had previously been used in other redesign projects that were led by Toole.
However, concerns over the proposed parking were a recurring issue throughout the early design processes. During a public meeting in July regarding the project, several residents and business owners voiced their opposition to the design component.
Marcie Sullivan, owner of the Print House Boutique, said many of her customers are older and are not accustomed to backing in for parking.
“They say they are scared to death of backing in,” she said.
Rex said the unfamiliarity was a recurring comment from the public and ultimately led to the decision to remove the design feature.
“Folks are concerned about back in parking spaces and no one has ever had to do that in Denison,” he said. “Change was a hard pill to swallow.”
The decision not to include the back-in parking is not expected to affect the financial aspects of the project, Rex said. While it will impact the design and landscaping components, there will be little to no cost.
As the project enters the design phase, Rex said it will likely be a 14 to 15 month process before the project is ready to move forward. The construction timetable will also heavily depend on the city’s funding for the project.
In late 2016, the city created a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone covering much of downtown and neighboring avenues. This fund will be use to collect any property tax revenue generated over 2016’s totals.
Through this fund, the city plans to fund the debt payment on the future components of the project. As such, the construction pace will be determined on how much the fund has collected once design is complete. However, city officials previously said they hope the ongoing construction would ultimately lead to additional private interest and investment, effectively increasing the funds going into the TIRZ.