Government

Historic Marion houses miss deadline to be moved to make way for library project

Joe Hill unlocks the door at 520 12th St., Marion, in this 2019 photo. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Joe Hill unlocks the door at 520 12th St., Marion, in this 2019 photo. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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MARION — Two brick houses in Uptown Marion scheduled to be moved and built into a 19-unit apartment complex could delay the Marion Public Library groundbreaking this fall and cost the city “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The houses, which were built in the 1800s and are at 525th 11th St. and 520 12th St., sit on the property where the new Marion Public Library will be built.

Before the library can break ground on Oct. 1, the houses, which were scheduled to be moved by June 30, must be relocated.

“We’re a year past when we thought this was going to be done, and we’re at the point where delays in the library project could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars to the bottom line costs,” Marion City Manager Lon Pluckhahn said at a city council work session Tuesday.

“There isn’t room for additional contingency planning. They just have to be moved.”

The houses initially were supposed to be moved by the end of 2019. The council extended the deadline by six months to June 30 of this year.

The coronavirus pandemic delayed moving the houses for a second time. Now the council is expected to extend the agreement to Sept. 30.

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“Understandably with COVID-19, everything has been delayed, but the expectation was that they would be moved by now,” Mayor Nick AbouAssaly said.

The tentative plan is for the first house to be moved between Aug. 24 and Sept. 2, and the second house to be moved between Sept. 3 and Sept. 11, said Kyle Martin, with Martin Gardner Architecture.

Once moved, the houses will be built into a 19-unit apartment complex, named Carriage Corner, on Fourth Avenue and Ninth Streets in Marion by private business owner Joe Hill.

Hill is a Cedar Rapids native who now lives in San Diego, Calif., and also is planning on reopening Maid Rite at its former location at 1000 Seventh Ave., in Marion.

The housing project is receiving $100,000 in tax increment financing, or TIF, which is used for redevelopment, infrastructure and community-improvement projects.

The houses, which are owned by the city, may be demolished if they can’t be moved by the time the library needs to break ground, Pluckhahn said.

Marion Library Director Hollie Trenary said she and the Library Board is concerned about the timeline.

“Right now, our confidence level on meeting that deadline feels a little shaky,” she said.

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The council voted in December to issue up to $7 million in debt to help finance the new library.

The debt will cover some construction costs for the estimated $18 million project on city-owned land between the existing library at 1095 Sixth Ave. and Marion City Hall.

Other pieces to the funding plan include using $5 million from Marion’s local-option sales taxes, getting $3 million from the sale of the current library site and obtaining $3 million in donations and fundraising, organized by the Marion Public Library Foundation.

Comments: (319) 398-8411; grace.king@thegazette.com

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