MARION — A community garden, fountain, more lighting and even an ice rink are amenities that could be added to Marion’s Uptown Plaza with the help of a $155,000 grant from Iowa Great Places.
The state grant was awarded to Marion this week for the city’s Heart of it All initiative, which identified four areas in the community for improvements.
“Everything we do in City Square Park has to be really flexible and versatile,” said Jill Ackerman, president of the Marion Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a relatively small space, and it’s treasured by many.”
The Uptown Marion district covers 20 blocks in Marion’s historic commercial area and includes City Square Park.
Ackerman said the chamber will begin working with a designer this summer on the Uptown Plaza, which could cost between $2 million and $3 million to develop.
Other communities splitting $1 million in this week’s Great Places grants were Adel, Redfield, Clinton, Guttenberg and Winterset. The grants are funded through the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund and require communities to match the dollar total.
Marion was chosen as a Great Places community for the second time in 2018 for its Imagine Next plan, making it eligible for a grant. The city first won the designation in 2008 for its Imagine 8 initiative and has received $600,000 through the grant program.
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The Imagine Next plan focuses on Uptown Marion, on Indian Creek, on making Marion more welcoming and on expanding aquatic opportunities.
Creekside Pride is the Indian Creek plan, which calls for improving the creek’s water quality and creating educational opportunities.
The Little Things initiative includes creating Marion welcome centers, offering more recycling options to residents and launching new events like Fireworks and Fireflies. That event was held for the first time on July 3, attracting a crowd of more than 5,000.
The Just Keep Swimming initiative focuses on the Marion Municipal Swimming Pool in Willowood Park, 1855 35th St., which has about 10 years of life left, Ackerman said.
The city’s earlier Imagine 8 project identified eight areas for development, including a new Marion YMCA, now under construction at 3740 Irish Dr., and a new Marion Public Library, which the Marion City Council greenlighted last month.
Marion also has applied for a $100,000 grant through the National Endowment for the Arts. Those awards will be announced in April.
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