In the 200 block of Denison’s Main Street are two neighboring store fronts long neglected. A peak inside the window of one reveals fallen ceiling tiles and a morgue of forgotten stuff. In the other, the view is mostly blocked by an old tarp stretched across the window, but a small opening where the tarp has pulled away shows that this old building has lost its battle with mother nature. Grass and small trees have begun to grow.
It is in this space the city hopes to create a “pocket park.” City Manager Robert Hanna said the project is a in line with the city council’s goal to address quality of life in Denison by “creating an attractive landscape, creating a place where residents and business owners and people who are working in downtown can come and have a lunch or take a break, kind of have a quiet environment.”
The city’s plan calls for keeping much of the facades, while creating an open space by demolishing the rest of the buildings and the remaining roof. “It just looks disjointed if you don’t (keep the facades),” Hanna said, comparing the gap that would exist if the facades were demolished to a smile with a missing front tooth.
The city council discussed the project at a recent workshop, expressing support of the idea. In an interview Wednesday, Mayor Jared Johnson said the project arose more out of the need to address the decaying buildings than anything else. “To simply tear them down and have a big hole in the middle of our downtown, in the middle of our historic district, is simply not an option,” he said. “I think the council is proactively dealing with this as opposed to letting those buildings continue to linger.”
The buildings and land were donated to the city in May, and la terra studios was hired to design some possibilities for the space. At the same time the city hired an engineer to create a plan for shoring up the adjoining walls of the neighboring buildings and the facades.
The city has budgeted $150,000 for the demolition of the interior and the structural elements. Hanna said he expects that aspect of the project to move forward soon. The city is only waiting for cost estimates for abatement of the asbestos that was found in the buildings. Hanna said he is confident that funds that are budgeted are more than sufficient to abate the asbestos and fund the demolition and structural supports.
The next step will be the beautification of the space — essentially the park part — which could happen in around 14 months. However that portion of the project, which has an estimated cost of $157,000 to $270,250, will depend on funding and the council’s priorities.
“There are other priorities the community faces, and there is some discussion about, ‘Is this a priority for us right now?’” Hanna said. “I think the important part is we’re planning for it.”
He said, however, that he’s hopeful the project will happen sooner rather than later.
“I think it would help set a tone for downtown and help create some energy and really an example and very visual image of what downtown Denison can and should be,” Hanna said.