MARION — The long-imagined gateway bridge into the city of Marion now has a design, thanks to Marion artist Cara Briggs Farmer.
A selection committee chose a design by Briggs Farmer, with Synergy Metalworks in Uptown Marion, from 59 designs submitted.
The design will go on the CeMar Trail Bridge, the former railroad bridge that crosses over Marion Boulevard near Second Street, when the bridge is built, probably in 2021.
Briggs Farmer told the council Tuesday night her proposal is meant to be visually appealing on the close-up, pedestrian scale for those walking on the bridge, and from a distance for those driving under the bridge.
The design calls for four lighted, colorful towers to decorate what will likely be a stainless steel or aluminum structure with decorated railing panels.
The city last year had a bridge architect design a pedestrian bridge structure, but the designs that were “grand enough” to serve as a “gateway to Marion” were at least a million dollars over budget.
The city decided instead of dress up a simple pedestrian bridge with art instead of architecture to make it more affordable.
“We have to look at it as a gateway feature. What’s going to make this standout to say ‘You’ve reached Marion. This is the CeMar Trail Bridge,’ ” said Kesha Billings, an associate planner for Marion.
“We get to do this one time,” Mayor Nick AbouAssaly said during the council discussion. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to see it for decades and be proud of it and have it be something that’s a signature piece for the entry point for Marion.”
The design will have to meet engineering and Iowa Department of Transportation requirements, so Briggs Farmer and other project officials will spend the next five months revising the design.
A contract for Briggs Farmer is expected to be on the council’s Thursday agenda.
Billings said the city originally budgeted $150,000 for the artwork portion of the bridge, estimated to cost $1.5 million, but that may be adjusted during the final design process. If costs go above that, additional funding, perhaps from grants, will have to be identified, she said.
Briggs Farmer has been doing public art for three years and has been welding as an artist for the past 10 years.
“I love the conversation that happens before the art happens,” Briggs Farmer said. “So I love it when a community comes together and decides they have a vision or if they don’t have a vision and they just have some elements. ...
“I love getting into that committee and sort of picking everyone’s brains and finding out ‘What’s the heartbeat of your community?’ And ‘how can we how can we let that feed the artwork?’ ”
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