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Marion Public Library breaks ground on new location

$2.2 million raised toward $3.3 million fundraising goal

Marion Mayor Nick AbouAssaly (left of center) and Marion Public Library Director Hollie Trenary (right of center) toss d
Marion Mayor Nick AbouAssaly (left of center) and Marion Public Library Director Hollie Trenary (right of center) toss dirt during the Thursday groundbreaking for the new Marion Public Library in Marion. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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MARION — The new Marion Public Library broke ground Thursday after years of planning for a new building.

“I would be lying if we weren’t kind of like, ‘Is this really happening? Finally,’ ” Library Director Hollie Trenary told The Gazette. “It’s wonderful. The timing is super timely for us with everything going on. For our staff, it’s a step forward.”

The library staff has been through a lot this year with an ongoing pandemic and a derecho that permanently closed the current building, 1095 Sixth Ave., which had been the library’s home since 1996.

The library lost about 20 percent of its collection in the storm and is now operating out of a temporary location at 1064 Seventh Ave. until the new building is complete.

The library also announced at the groundbreaking that it has raised $2,228,965 toward its $3.3 million fund drive, called “Our Next Chapter.”

“The funds we have raised so far have us way on our way to our next chapter,” Trenary said during the event.

The new library, which will be built across 11th Street from the current building, will cost an estimated $18 million, with the remainder coming from city bonds and the sale of the current site, once insurance matters are settled on its derecho damage.

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The project also received a $450,000 grant from Iowa Economic Development Authority’s Enhance Iowa Board in August.

Marion Mayor Nick AbouAssaly said the new library has been a long time coming.

“This is probably the most anticipated and long-awaited project in recent years,” he said. “It’s been worth the wait. We’re going to have a great library we will be proud of.”

Nancy A. Miller, an ex-officio member of the library’s board and a primary donor to the 1996 library building, which bears her name, said she donated to the new building and is supportive of the project.

“I’m so happy to be adopted by this city, and I’m so proud of you,” Miller, a Cedar Rapids resident, said. “I am so thrilled thinking and planning for this … the school systems are booming and this city is on the go.”

Trenary said there has been a need for a new building as Marion has doubled its population since the 24,500-square-foot library was built more than 20 years ago. The new building will be almost twice as big.

“We were busting at the seams,” Trenary said. “There is a lot of need for library expansion in this community. … Maybe in the past, the timing wasn’t right for this project, but now is the time. It’s given us time to really understand what we need.”

Trenary said the new building will provide space for exhibits, small conferences and new programming. There also will been a demonstration kitchen space as the library partners with food insecurity initiatives.

“I think libraries are magical places,” she said. “But there’s so much the community gains from having a vibrant, active library (besides) going in and having access to books and being able to escape to other places and learn things. Just having a public place, no matter who you are …. This is for you. This building is for the community.”

Timeline of Gazette coverage on the Marion Library project

October 2016: Marion abandons the idea of tearing down the old library and building a new one on the same site, instead seeing it as part of a mixed-use development.

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February 2017: Marion library and city officials get on the same page for Marion Square Plaza redevelopment to include a new library.

February 2017: Marion community members have differing views on where to put the new library.

July 2017: Purchase negotiations for Marion Square Plaza take longer than expected.

June 2018: Marion’s initial view is that a new state law could make building in a multiuse development more challenging than expected.

November 2018: What the multiuse/library project means for existing businesses in Marion Square Plaza.

April 2019: Marion library won’t relocate to strip mall site.

June 2019: Marion City Council supports new direction for library.

April 2020: Marion library deals with challenges of pandemic.

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September 2020: Marion library sets up temporary home after derecho permanently closes library building.

September 2020: Historic houses on the lot of the new library building get moved after various delays, making way for October’s groundbreaking.

Comments: (319) 398-8255; gage.miskimen@thegazette.com

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