The city of Kemah is plowing ahead with the $1.1 million first phase of its ambitious downtown revitalization plan.

The city council Wednesday approved hiring Houston-based Durotech Inc. to oversee the initial phase, which includes building a new restroom facility adjoining the city’s visitors center at Bradford Avenue and Sixth Street; refiguring and rebuilding the adjacent parking area so it also can function as a pop-up, multiuse entertainment venue; and repaving and landscaping the long-neglected block of Harris Street between 6th and 7th streets.

It’s all about burnishing the bay city’s image, Mayor Carl Joiner said.

“This is the first step in changing the appearance of our downtown,” he said. “It’s going to make a big impact on what impression our city’s going to make.”

The first phase is expected to be completed in early June, weather permitting, Joiner said.

Durotech, as the construction manager at risk, will oversee hiring and supervising all subcontractors for the first-phase project. A manager-at-risk agreement requires a contractor to deliver a project at a guaranteed price.

“Most of our work, around 95 percent, is construction management at risk,” Durotech estimator Alan Montgomery said. “That’s our forte.”

Renovating downtown has been a repeated topic of discussion in recent years, and debate as to how best to proceed continued at the decisive council meeting.

Durotech, at the city’s direction, had put together a principal bid encompassing only the parking lot and restroom aspects of the project; the company also presented a separate bid for the Harris Street rehabilitation.

Montgomery said he had not anticipated the council approving both.

“We worked on the budget and worked on the budget with the city staff and the mayor to get it as close as we could to what they wanted,” he said, and admitted to being surprised when the council packaged both proposals, but agreed with that decision. “In my opinion, they were really smart to do so. Starting and stopping and maybe picking back up a year later is a crapshoot.”

Councilman Kyle Burks pushed the consolidation.

“Let’s put in Harris, and budget the whole $1.1 million,” he urged. “People coming to Kemah see Harris Street and they flip a quick U-turn and get out of here.”

Joiner supported Burks’ position.

“If we don’t include Harris tonight, it’ll never get done,” he said. “We’ll have more important things to do down the road.”

The city’s approval of the first phase allowed Durotech to begin signing contracts with builders, Montgomery said the day after the council gave the project its go-ahead.

Several key contractors working with Durotech on the project are based in the area including Lucas Construction Co., of League City, which will be in charge of the bulk of the parking lot aspect of the project; and Maverick Remodeling and Construction LLC, of Seabrook, which will build the restroom facility.

Much of the design work is being handled by Tim Broadhead Architects, of Kemah, and SWA Group’s Houston office.

“We try to keep as much of the money local as we can,” Montgomery said.

Weather permitting, ground will be broken within the next 10 or so days, he said.

Valerie Wells is a reporter at The Daily News and can be reached at 409-683-5246 or valerie.wells@galvnews.com.

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