The District of Houston council has decided to use what’s left of a 2019-2020 provincial grant to help finance the next phase of its planned comprehensive downtown improvement project.
Council had been anticipating receiving $837,662 from another provincial program aimed at helping communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
But with that application being unsuccessful, council decided to take the approximately $600,000 left from the 2019-2020 program which allowed the District to spend the money as it wished on capital projects.
And by also deciding to take just under $238,000 from a surplus, the District now has enough to cover the gap from not receiving the COVID-19 recovery grant.
This now means council has one portion of the overall financing it needs for the three parts to Phase 2 of its downtown revitalization program, work that would be similar in size and scope to Phase 1, that being last year’s 9th Street underground and above ground improvements.
Phase 2A would involve 10 Street North, Poulton to the mid-block, Phase 2B would be 10th Street South, Poulton to Butler and to Sixth Street and Phase 2C of 10th Street North, from the mid-block to Butler.
A key part of Phase 2 would include a water main upgrade on Butler from 6th to 10th as part of an overall upgrade to beef up the water supply in case of fire to the downtown, the Houston Mall and Silverthorne Elementary .
Broken down into cost components, Phase 2A would now be financed by the combination the provincial 2019-2020 provincial grant and surplus as described above.
But overall completion of Phase 2 would still rely on senior grants with the District now awaiting word on a federal grant application for $1.579 million for Phase 2B.
In a memo to council laying out financing options for consideration, District of Houston chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck said the District may not hear if its successful on that application or not until the summer.
A detailed project worksheet presented to council as part of its financial and work planning for the next five years did note that costs developed for the various work phases are subject to increases by the time quotes are sought for the work.
That worksheet also indicated the 2019-2020 provincial grant had already been tapped to provide $1.874 million for work planned past the Phase 2 projects.
In total, the District’s downtown improvement vision extends to additional work as Phase 3 on 10th from Copeland to Poulton, as Phase 4 on 11th from Copeland to Poulton and Phase 5 on 11th from Poulton to Butler.
With contingency costs built in, the Phase 2-Phase 5 total cost could be $11.715 million.
“Future phases of this project are grant-dependent. As such, future phases of this project should not be expected to proceed if third-party funding sources cannot be secured, and estimate revisions should be revised accordingly,” the project worksheet concludes.