After 28 years of ownership, the Downtown Denison Inc. is handing over the reigns of Heritage Park to the city. The City Council voted to enter into an agreement with DDI that will allow the city to take ownership of the park while granting a few provisions that protect DDI’s interest in the area.
DDI President Chad Leasure said it was important to ensure the space continues to be made available for public use. That is why DDI negotiated an agreement that would require the voters to approve any changes to the park’s status as a public space.
“Our biggest contention was the park remained a resource to the public and it doesn’t go to to any private entity,” Leasure said. “We could have sold the park and used the funds to further our own objective. When you sell something like that, you could lose it to everybody.”
Leasure said it had been in the works for a while. Previously the city and DDI had what Leasure said was akin to a handshake agreement that allowed the city to use the park for it’s events like Music on Main and the Doc Holliday Festival, as long as the city maintained the park.
Denison City Manager Jud Rex said with Designing Downtown Denison approaching, the city felt it was in its best interest to take ownership of the park.
“We think of it as a property partnership to make improvements to the park,” Rex said. “In exchange for ownership, the city will be granting DDI $10,000 a year for five years from the hotel occupancy funds to use the venue downtown. We will be giving them a seat on several committees as well.”
Leasure said while the city is taking ownership of the park, neither DDI nor the city considered it a purchase. Leasure likened it to a trade with each party gaining a stake in the city. Denison will gain a representative on the DDI board while DDI will have a member appointed to serve on three city boards. Those boards include the Main Street Advisory Board, Convention and Visitors Bureau and the D3 steering committee.
The agreement also allows DDI to utilize the space up to 12 times a year. One condition of the agreement is a restriction that would prohibit the city to change the status of the park from a public park without voter approval. The agreement also prohibits the city from selling the park to a private entity.
Leasure said the park had its origins in a number of land deals by a variety of property owners that brought the various parcels into DDI control. The purpose of creating the park was to ensure there was a public space to promote the businesses and culture of downtown Denison.
Another key aspect of the agreement includes the city spending up to $1 million in improving the park with the city’s D3 renovations.
“(The deal) allows for transparency and shows a good faith effort on both parties to utilize it as a resource to promote downtown,” Leasure said. “We are a merchant organization. Our goal is to drive economic commerce. The city shares that goal. They also want to attract activity for the community. This solidifies our relationship and shows Denison is moving forward in the right direction.”