Denison staff hosted an open house this week to show off renderings of the different design aspects of the city’s Main Street renovation project. Residents were able to meet with city officials at City Hall to ask questions throughout the night. The plans displayed showed about 60 percent of the first phase of the three-phase project.

Denison City Manager Jud Rex talked about the renovation during the City Council’s budget workshop earlier in the month. At that meeting, Rex said the renovations were part of Denison’s vision to become a city of choice by improving the quality of life for its residents.

“We will start the downtown project in 2020,” Rex said. “That is a big priority for us. Obviously, next year we are also looking at opportunities to help improve the corridors leading to downtown. We want to do some planning to that end.”

On Tuesday night, Rex said the city began planning the current phase in 2016 and described the work ahead as essentially ripping up Main Street and starting over. He said sidewalks will be widened, landscaping and lighting will be updated and the streets will be slightly more narrow. Rex said the city will be redoing all the underground infrastructure at the same time.

“Through the construction process, we’ll — of course — maintain access to all the businesses,” Rex said. “There will be times we will have to restrict where vehicles or people can go. Our plan is to keep businesses open, that is our priority. When we do have to pave in front of a doorway, we will find ways to accommodate that, either pave on a weekend or ensure there is a backdoor access, that sort of thing. It will be an inconvenience for sure.”

Rex said funding for the $7.5 million-$8 million project is based on how Denison’s property values increase in the city’s tax increment reinvestment zone downtown. He said Denison is using the reinvestment zone to fund the renovations while spurring economic development.

“We want to keep the heart of Denison beating, thriving for now and in the future,” Rex said.

Rex also said the city wants to improve the look of the roads heading into downtown Denison and said he is expecting the construction to take 12-24 months, depending on various factors. He said the city believes it will be faster to tear it up all at once and rebuild it all at the same time rather than doing it in smaller pieces.

“Our renovation incentive program has been super successful,” Rex said. “We have had over 70 applications for that. Some significant improvements are really happening through that program.”

Denison Downtown Director Donna Dow said the city has been getting lots of positive feedback from business owners about the project.

“It will open it up to make it more convenient for people,” Dow said. “We are going with curbless sidewalks, there won’t be a step up, that will be very nice, very appealing. There is a traffic calming affect. They are changing the width of the sidewalks so they will be wider. We hope to have a lot of outdoor dining on the sidewalks.”

Dow said the city is hoping to make everything more visually appealing for pedestrians. She said amenities to be added include more benches, water connections and electrical outlets for businesses to have easier access to electricity for events.

“We’re going to maintain our buildings,” Dow said. “The exciting things is the building is the outfit and the sidewalks are the new pair of shoes to go with it. It really enhances the look. We will be using a historical looking brick which will compliment what we already have.”