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921 Main, bond projects eyed at BEDC March meeting

By Terry Hagerty – Contributing writer

The Bastrop Economic Development Board of Directors approved a $4,500 engineering study for the 921 Main Street Redevelopment at their March 19 meeting. Before plans for construction of a mixed-use 9,000 square-foot two story building proceed much further, officials said drainage concerns need to be addressed in depth, especially after a parking lot was built behind the space. Moisture problems in the concrete slab and the adjoining walls of two Main Street businesses that were aggravated by rains from Hurricane Harvey continue to be a problem, officials say.

The vacant lot at 921 Main Street in Downtown Bastrop.

A representative with BEDC-contracted KSA Engineers told the Board the current concrete slab “has to come up” before a building is built. Some type of curbing is also needed to push water away from the walls. BEDC Executive Director Shawn Kirkpatrick concurred, saying the parking lot built behind the rear of the lot – at the former site of the Bastrop Advertiser – necessitated an updated study on drainage impact. A ‘building-envelope’ specialist previously hired by the BEDC reported that moisture/standing water exists in the foundation area.

The EDC is recommending interim remediation due to damage being incurred by neighboring buildings.

There are currently three walls at the site – two long side walls that are part of adjacent businesses and a back wall with a window frame and exit door. Both business owners have reported moisture issues with their respective walls. Although new walls would be built, officials said that moisture from the old side walls could have bearing on the project. Officials say the ‘turning of dirt’ on the project likely won’t occur until summer. Approval of the engineering study will allow KSA to study drainage and come up with solutions that the building contractor – still to be hired – would use.

Temporary Art Denied at 921 Main – The Board declined a request to put in a temporary sculpture by artist Renaldo Alaniz at the 921 Main Street lot. City Manager Lynda Humble suggested that art at the open lot could pump up the visual quotient downtown and might “cause you to do other things”, encouraging a longer stay, and potential revenue impact, from visitors/tourists in the downtown area. But with construction slated for mid-summer at the lot, Board members expressed concern about the art not being there very long and perhaps being in the way as surveying and construction get underway.

Main Street Director Sarah O'Brien requested that the Downtown Grant Program be suspended for the current budget year.

Downtown Grant Money on Hold – After hearing a recommendation from City Main Street Director Sarah O’Brien, the Board voted to suspend the BEDC’s downtown building grant program for Fiscal Year 2018. O’Brien said a host of activities, including her spearheading City involvement in the TV competition program “Small Business Revolution – Main Street”, did not leave enough time to satisfactorily administer the grant program. The program entails $50,000 available for façade renovations to Main Street businesses. The Board also directed O’Brien to “give feedback” on how the funds could still be used in the near future, “in some form or fashion,” for business owners.

EDC Director Shawn Kirkpatrick updated the Board on ongoing infrastructure projects.

Agnes Street/Technology Drive Projects – Kirkpatrick updated the Board on potential bond options, and the schedule, for the Agnes Street Extension Project and the Technology Drive/MLK Extension and Drainage Project – with options for either $1.2 million, $2.6 million or $3.0 million. Kirkpatrick said his recommendation was to go the bond route of either the $1.2 million or the $2.6 million project. “We don’t need to rush this,” Kirkpatrick said. “We can have Jason Hughes come back down…and walk you through the options.” Kirkpatrick said the projects could be funded with the BEDC’s fund balance of $3.6 million, but it would leave the BEDC “cash poor.”