Revitalization of our downtown is coming

As I mentioned in the first line of my previous column (June 6 issue), it is a great time for community celebration for the city of Marion. I am pleased to announce that the council has approved a bid for the Main Street Streetscape project for downtown revitalization!

The Main Street Street­scape project is not a new idea. The talk and concepts for improving our historic downtown started over 40 years ago with a group of community leaders who had a vision for preserving our beautiful limestone buildings and promoting a path for economic growth for Marion’s future.

The talk in the 1970s led to the creation of the 1980 Down­town Redevelopment Plan. Some of the ideas from that plan have been incorporated into this new project.

In 2010 city council agreed to revitalize the downtown area as our central business district. We applied for a grant through the Kansas Department of Transportation in 2012. After several unsuccessful attempts to win this competitive grant our community was successful in winning the grant competition in 2016.

The following design and bid process resulted in the cost estimates exceeding the funding level available even after doubling the city’s matching portion.

The council remained committed by having the project redesigned in 2017 for rebidding in 2018. The new bid was recently approved by council with construction to begin in early 2019.

For every dollar the city will invest in the construction, about $2 will be provided by the grant. An excellent return on the city’s investment and also redirects some of our federal tax dollars back home. Hope, perseverance, flexibility, pride and commitment are just a few words that come to my mind reflecting a project 40 years in the making.

So why is this project important? Addressing aging infrastructure, restoration of commerce, building and downtown area accessibility for those with limited mobility or handicapped, technology changes, enhancing and complimenting the beauty of our historic downtown buildings are just a few important reasons for this project.

This revitalization project is simply a milestone in the journey of our community and not the final destination. By investing in the public infrastructure of downtown, we envision the private sector will take the opportunity to revitalize their facilities and operations. Together, the public and private investment can make Marion, “the best place I’ve seen.”

This past week I had the opportunity to meet with a great group of leaders from Hillsboro and Marion including: Lou Thurston, Larry Paine, Anthony Roy, Clint Siebel, Randy Collett and Roger Holter. Our communities have been meeting on a regular basis and have been working together for years.

This is a humble group; bragging isn’t something they do but I will do some bragging for them. For the past several years, Larry and Roger have brought our communities closer together by simply doing what is right.

Through their leadership, our public works departments, electrical departments, police departments, economic development, etc., have engaged in a spirit of cooperation and support we all can be proud of.

Now don’t get me wrong. When it comes to school athletic, academic or music events, or rec department events or the Bruce/Crofoot Golf Tourna­ment there are no holds barred. We are competitive and both our communities are out to win.

When those competitions are over this group of leaders can sit and work together on not only city issues but the county as well, because it is the right thing to do and it matters. Todd Heitschmidt, Marion Mayor

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