D3 first phase to max out at $16M

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
An artist rendering shows early plans for the new Design of Main Street in Denison. The city is prepared to invest $16.83 million in the first phase of improvements.

Visions of a revitalized Denison streetscape passed one of the final hurdles from becoming reality this week when the Denison City Council approved a guaranteed maximum price for the first phase of the D3 project.

The council agreed to accept the $16.83 million price tag for the first phase of the project, which will see a redesign and improvement along Main Street and its connected alleyways.

The project has been a long-term goal for the city following a series of public meetings, along with interviews with downtown stakeholders nearly five years ago about the possible future of downtown Denison.

"As everyone knows, we've been planning and drawing and designing, working and meeting for five years," said Bobby Atteberry, incoming interim Denison City Manager. "We are now at the point now that, with approval of this item, we are ready to begin construction." 

The first phase of the improvements will run along the east side of Main Street running from Rusk to Houston.

With this agreement, Piazza Construction will take liability of any costs that go above the guarantee based on the current designs and plans.

"This is the design that we envision," Denison Mayor Janet Gott said, confirming the plans during Monday's meeting.

For the city of Denison, the road toward D3, also known as Designing Downtown Denison, has been a long one, figuratively and literally.

Talks on the project started in earnest in 2016 through a series of visioning sessions with Toole Design Group and residents on what they would like to see in the future of downtown. Over the course of the fall, Toole collected these visions and used them to draft and form a plan for downtown revitalization.

An artist rendering shows early plans for the new Design of Main Street in Denison. Initial plans called for back-in parking, but these were evenually phased out from the final design.

These plans included the improvements to main street, ranging from restructured and redesigned lanes and more pedestrian space, that the city is now pursuing.

Other lofty projects that were included in the Toole plan included a public amenity in the 700 block of W. Main where the high school once sat. Heritage Park was also redesigned in one of these plans to allow it to be more open to the public during events and gatherings.

It was about two years later when the city created the funding mechanism that will make the project possible — a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone that covered the vast majority of downtown and neighboring areas.

A TIRZ is a funding tool that allows the city to set aside funds for projects without increasing the tax rate. Once a TIRZ is created, it will set record the taxable value within the district. Over time, any tax revenue above that value will be set aside specifically for projects within the zone.

The hope behind a TIRZ is that as public improvements take place through TIRZ funding, the value of the area will increase, thus generating more funds for future improvements.

For 2020, the fund is expected to see a balance of $773,853 with $436,067 in deposits for the year. 

By 2025, this is expected to increase to $1.07 million in deposits with a balance of $1.33 million.

These funds will be used over time to pay off the debt service of bonds used to finance the various stages of the project.

In a separate action Monday, the Council agreed to publish a notice of intent to issue about $18 million of debt for the first phase of D3.

The expected payments out of D3 for the next three years fall at about $525,000 annually. Finance Director Renee Waggoner said these payments were kept low to allow the fund to build up revenue.

"So, when we get to phase 2 we will have funding to do design sooner rather than later," she said.

The council is expected to act on issuing bonds when it meets in February.