The push to renovate Denison’s Main Street took a step forward toward development and construction Monday.


The City Council approved hiring Piazza Construction to serve as the manager-at-risk for the pre-construction of phase one of the D3 project, also known as Designing Downtown Denison.


The project will see Main Street and neighboring alleyways rebuilt to provide an improved streetscape and more usable outdoor space in downtown.


“The plan is to keep moving the D3 project forward by using into the pre-construction phase,” City Manager Jud Rex said Monday. “That is where we hire a construction manager to work with our architect and the city and move the project in order to get it ready for construction.”


These most recent efforts to renew Main Street date back to around 2016 when the city contracted with Toole Design Group to design possible improvement projects in downtown.


Beyond the street improvements, this partnership also generated potential development plans for the former Denison High School site and improvements to Herritage Park.


For this phase of work, the city is focusing on the intersection with Rusk Avenue and three block east, the creation of a public parking lot and the rebuilding of adjoining alleyways.


In total, the city estimates that this phase could cost about $12 million.


With this role, Rex said Piazza will work through the cost of the project along with bids for the various sub-projects involved. At this time, city officials expect to have results back some time this fall.


“At that point, we will have a lot better information on what the economy looks like and the viability of the project and we can make a decision on the timing of starting construction,” Rex said.


Earlier this spring, city officials said there have been some delays in the project due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the expected recession that could accompany it.


“In a perfect world when we are not facing a recession, we would be in a position to move forward with the project, so we are going to proceed with caution,” Rex said. “The numbers look good this year, but they need to continue to look good for the next few years.”


Rex would not rule out the possibility of the first phase being scaled down due to the uncertainty.


“All options are on the table at this point for moving the project forward,” he said. “We hope we can move it forward as planned, but given the situation there may be need to adjust the project depending at what the cost comes in at.”


The project is being financed using a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone that was created ecompassing much of downtown Denison.


Through this zone, the city sets aside the property tax revenues generated by the area above the value of when the zone was created. As property values increase, this zone will generate more funding specifically for downtown improvements.


Using these funds, the city will pay off the debt service from bonds used to finance the project.


Initial projects put the value of the zone at about $118 million by 2020, however property valuations for the year are slightly higher, with values at about $130 million.


Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.