MARION — City officials are looking how to embrace and manage meaningful growth — intentional momentum — in Marion in the coming year, Mayor Nick AbouAssaly said Thursday during the annual State of the City luncheon.
“We have a direct role to play in whether and how the city grows and develops because growth for its own sake, or development that doesn’t add value for our residents or enhance their quality of life, may not be the type of development we want to encourage,” he said during his address at the Cedar Rapids Marriott.
“We also have to sharpen our focus on one main purpose — increasing opportunities for people.”
Change in Marion is apparent with developments and new infrastructure in the Uptown area and on the east side of the city, as well as a growing population and expanding business base.
In 2018, AbouAssaly said, the City Council and city staff have set goals to:
l Moving Marion toward producing less waste and becoming energy independent.
l Directing where and how development takes place and understanding how development impacts residents.
l Revamping Marion’s central corridor.
l Improving all modes of transportation.
And while the city continues to tout itself as a good place to raise a family and grow a business, AbouAssaly said he hopes officials and residents continue projects that draw and retain young professionals. “People of all age groups increasingly want to live in places that offer opportunities for an active lifestyle and positive interaction,” he said. “We get this.”
AbouAssaly pointed to the Uptown Artway project — which put local artists’ work in the alleys in downtown Marion — and the Klopfenstein Amphitheater at Lowe Park.
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Additionally, continued trail projects and park expansions — including an all-inclusive playground in Lowe Park — will help tie residents to the community, he said.
Redevelopment of Sixth Avenue in Uptown, the Tower Terrace Road connection and the Squaw Creek Crossing commercial development at Highways 13 and 151 also will hopefully draw more business and ease of transportation through Marion, AbouAssaly said.
“Projects such as these do more than increase tax base and offer new services and amenities,” he said. “They improve the curb appeal of the city. They make people feel good about where they live, and they make a direct impression on visitors and potential new investors.”
Looking forward, AbouAssaly said, it’s important for residents to feel connected to city leaders. Last year, council members held regular Saturday office hours at the Marion Public Library and held work sessions in their wards to hear from residents. AbouAssaly also held monthly “coffee with the mayor” appointments at the Marion Hy-Vee and “lunch with the mayor” at Marion High School.
“Residents have multiple opportunities to stay informed and connect with city council and staff,” he said.
And while Marion is certified for the Blue Zones health program, the city is going to implement its own wellness initiative, “Be Well Marion.”
In hoping to improve quality of life, AbouAssaly also announced that the city, Heritage Agency, Horizons and Seniors Connections have partnered to offer meals for seniors at the library and Lowe Park four days a week. Seniors Connections, a group of residents, city staff and service providers, began two years ago when AbouAssaly met with Marion seniors to see how their quality of life could be improved.
AbouAssaly ended the address by asking residents to take part in positive change.
“We have the choice to sit on the sidelines, or jump in, make a positive impact to help build the community we desire,” he said.
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