116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — Uptown road closures will return this year as construction as Marion’s Seventh Avenue streetscape project is back in full swing this week.
Tenth Street, a major connection between north and south Marion, will be closed between Seventh and Eighth Avenues as Rathje Construction begins the second phase of the Uptown Marion-transforming infrastructure project.
The work between the two avenues is a part of construction that is expected to last for a few months.
City Manager Ryan Waller, who started last November, said while he wasn’t in Marion for the first phase of the project, he applauds the patience of business owners and residents alike. Waller was involved in a similar large-scale streetscape project in his previous community, Indianola.
“I know the blood, sweat and tears that goes into something this big,” Waller said. “It’s a generational project and it’s big for Uptown… It’s been refreshing to see our businesses and residents be so patient and understanding with the work that's taking place.”
In addition, the eastbound lane of Eighth Avenue near 10th Street will be closed for seven to 10 days beginning Thursday to make a sanitary sewer connection.
Fencing will be installed to make pathways to Uptown Marion businesses in the closed section of 10th Street, including local spots like Goldfinch Tap & Eatery, Frydae and the Giving Tree Theater.
“This year, we will have to get more creative and work individually with businesses,” Uptown Program Director Brooke Prouty previously told The Gazette. “We will work with them on the timing and marketing stuff, but we’re trying to keep access to businesses as open as possible.”
What the streetscape work involves
Work began on the long-awaited streetscape project last year, closing the busy Seventh Avenue in the heart of Uptown Marion for most of the summer.
Work includes the reconstruction of the street and sidewalks and the replacement of underground utilities, sanitary sewer, storm sewer and water main on Seventh Avenue and side streets between Eighth and 12th streets and Sixth and Eighth avenues.
It also includes a new Uptown Plaza on 11th Street that will stretch from the city’s Uptown Artway south across Seventh Avenue.
“The intent is to split this up to minimize the effect on traffic and parking for businesses this summer that couldn’t happen last summer with phase one,” Marion Assistant City Engineer Jacob Hahn said last month.
Business owners see obstacles and rewards
Frydae Owner Kelsie Hoth said she’s had a lot of time to wrap her head around the fact that construction would be right out her front door. Frydae, 743 10th St., opened last summer and Hoth said her business has seen nearby construction the entire time it’s been open.
“It’s going to be a short-term challenge. Hopefully, they should wrap up directly in front of our storefront in June. The only disappointing thing is starting construction during our busy season” Hoth said.
“More than that, I’m excited. It’s going to be a nice update. More walkable and pedestrian-friendly, and this business thrives on walking traffic and events happening in the area.”
Goldfinch Tap & Eatery General Manager John Lillibridge said the streetscape project has been a long time coming.
“Running a restaurant is already a challenge with COVID and everything going on and this is an added challenge. However, I feel good and when it’s all said and done, I believe it’s going to make Marion a destination spot and put us more on the map,” Lillibridge said. “I think it’s a small price to pay for the long-term vision.”
Frydae’s building also has access to the Uptown Artway alley behind it like many businesses had during the first phase, which allows customers to enter businesses from backdoors.
“The backdoor is going to be huge for us this year so our store isn’t completely blocked off,” Hoth said.
Five phases of the project
The $6.9 million project is being funded by local-option sales tax dollars and bonding through the city’s capital improvement program.
The project has five phases, but phases two through five are expected to be completed this year and are smaller segments than last year’s initial phase.
Phase One is mostly complete with the details being wrapped up this spring. In recent weeks, street light poles and benches have been installed along the Uptown stretch of Seventh Avenue.
String lights were also installed in the plaza location. The new design of Seventh Avenue as a “festival street” allows it to be closed for events in the future like the Marion Arts Festival and farmers markets.
“Events coming back to Uptown Marion will also be a big thing. One of the things the city has done is intentionally not bring in food vendors so traffic will flow to local businesses,” Hoth said. “Many of us will have special grab-and-go food items. For example, we will make grab-and-go ice cream sandwiches.”
Phase three will include work on 10th Street from Sixth to Seventh avenues. Phase four involves work on Seventh Avenue from Eighth to 10th streets. And phase five will be on Ninth Street from Sixth to Seventh avenues.
The completion date for the entire project is currently set for fall 2022.
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