Denison projects get $18M

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat

$16M goes to D3, other projects total more than $1M

An artist rendering shows designs for improvements to Main Street in the first phase of the Designing Downtown Denison project. The city recently issues $18 million for D3 and other projects.

Last month, visions of a revitalized and renewed Main Street became a reality as the city of Denison broke ground on the first phase of its ambitious D3 project. Now one month later, the city is looking to pay the bill.

The Denison City Council recently agreed to issued $18 million of debt to finance the first phase of streetscape and infrastructure improvements under the D3 program. This comes days after the city formally broke ground of the project and began the construction phase.

Despite the fact that crews already beginning work, Interim City Manager Bobby Atteberry said the bond issuance is on schedule and pushes the project forward.

"The contractor will not be issuing bonds for 60 days," Atteberry said. "So by that time we will have the money in the bank. It is just trying to fast track the project as much as possible."

The D3 project, also known as Designing Downtown Denison, first saw light in late 2016 when the city along with consultants from Toole Design Group held a series of public meetings to envision the future of Main Street. The city took the responses from these public meetings and devised a plan to revitalize the city's core with a focus on Main Street.

Plans for the project call for an overhaul of  Main Street, which will receive new infrastructure and be narrowed to create more pedestrian space and a more walkable streetscape. The street will be zero profile and feature no curbs, among other features.

The $18 million bond package includes the $16.4 million for construction of the D3 project, with the remaining funds going for other utility work and capital improvement projects.

These bonds represent the first funding the city has given to constructing the improved Main Street. The city issued bonds for the project in 2018, but this just encompassed the design of the first phase.

The bond comes at a time or uncertainty for many cities amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Many cities saw losses during the pandemic, up to and including a reduction in bond rating for some cities. However, Denison's rating remained steady through the pandemic.

A timeline of Designing Downtown Denison

"I was very nervous with things going on and revenue, but we maintained that," Finance Director Renee Waggoner said.

The city received nine responses to its request for bids for the bonds. This was notably high compared to most bond issuances, officials said.

"This is a good number of bids," said Boyd London, representing Hilltop Securities. "We normally see four to six, something along those lines."

The city was able to get a 20-year bond at a rate of just 1.5758 percent with markets have been at near historic lows.

These bonds will be paid off though the city's Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone No. 3, which encompasses much of downtown Denison and surrounding areas. The zone was created in late 2016 as a funding mechanism for the city with D3 specifically in mind.

The zone collects a portion of property taxes and sets it aside for use specifically within the zone. As the values of the zone increase, the amount of funding increases along with it, creating a stable funding source.

Denison held its Designing Downtown Denison groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday.