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Marion's 'streetscape' project to begin construction in April

Set to transform Uptown Marion, it has been years in the making

A newly designed plaza would cross Marion's Seventh Avenue, shown in the foreground. (Courtesy of the City of Marion)
A newly designed plaza would cross Marion’s Seventh Avenue, shown in the foreground. (Courtesy of the City of Marion)
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MARION — The city’s long-anticipated, Uptown-transforming streetscape project is gearing up to begin construction this spring.

The project, estimated to cost $6.5 million, has been in the making for a decade. Other large building projects in the area have begun or are about to, making for a series of changes expected to transform Uptown.

Marion Community Development Director Tom Treharne said work is planned to begin in late April.

“We’ve always said we can’t do it until Sixth Avenue is done,” he said, but that was not completed in 2020. “ ... It should be paved in the spring.”

Sixth Avenue currently stops at 22nd Street with a chunk left to be paved to connect it to a roundabout where Seventh Avenue connects near 26th Street.

A new Marion Public Library has broken ground and is underway across the street from the existing library.

Right next to City Square Park, the Marion Square Plaza is set to be redeveloped into a new mixed-use facility with two large buildings for commercial and residential spaces called Broad and Main. The first of the two buildings is set to be completed in 2022.

Treharne said the strip mall’s redevelopment is pushing the streetscape project to move along.

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“We have the huge redevelopment on the mall site so the critical thing now with that investment is there will be that streetscape that needs to be done in front of that building. It’s pushed us along,” he said.

The streetscape project begins at the Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street roundabout and extends eastward all the way to 12th Street on Seventh Avenue. The project also will include work on 10th Street between Sixth and Eighth avenues, which currently has brick road.

“At this point, I don’t foresee there being brick streets developed,” Treharne said.

The highest degree of change will happen on Seventh Avenue between 10th and 12th streets. This area of the street sits between a row of historic Uptown buildings and City Square Park and the current Marion Square Plaza.

Treharne said that area of road is proposed to become a “festival street,” which means there will be no curbs and it can be shut down for events and be more walkable.

Some early renderings show the road with no curb, new spaces for parking along the street and new lighting, potentially including decorative features that look like leaves.

“The leaves have been a point of conversation from the get-go,” Treharne said. “But they are not 100 percent at this point. The idea was drawing off the amphitheater at Lowe Park that has a giant oak leaf that overlooks it.”

Treharne said there has been “questionable support” for the leaf designs, but nothing is final. There’s also a strong desire to work with local artists to create these features, he said.

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He said as of mid-December, the city had about 70 percent of the engineering plans and wants to get the plans finalized this month.

“Our next step is to get this out in front of the public for conversation,” he said.

Treharne added that the idea is to have most of the project completed by the end of summer 2022, but phasing throughout the project will be important so as to not close down the entirety of Uptown and disrupt businesses for multiple construction seasons.

“We may start on the 12th Street side and then move into the core area,” Treharne said. “There’s also a roundabout proposed at Central and 10th Street, so we have to make sure we can’t shut down everything at the same time.”

He noted there also is stormwater and utility work needed to be verified before final decisions on phasing can be made, but he said the idea is to keep the impact to the business community as low as possible.

The other large portion of Uptown Marion’s transformation is the Uptown Plaza redevelopment that would transform City Square Park completely, while still leaving its historic train depot, which was damaged during the August derecho. The depot, however, is a separate project at this point, Treharne said.

“We did a preliminary design and cost for the park part of the central plaza design,” Treharne said. “We took that to concept and we’re going to keep it here for now because we have to get detail design work underway for the rest of it.”

The park’s redesign includes a ring area of the plaza that can be transformed into an ice-skating rink during the winter, planters that double as fire pits, water features for splashing around in the summer and an artistic-playground feature.

The cost of the park’s upgrades is estimated to be about $5.3 million, but the project won’t happen until the streetscape itself is complete.

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Treharne said most of the streetscape and plaza dollars will come through bonding. He said the central plaza piece of the project could see fundraising and grants to assist with the cost.

“This will likely be a phased project where we do a portion of it and come back in 2023 with the plaza,” Treharne said. “Once streetscape is underway, we will most likely do a final design of the plaza area and take a stronger look at the depot.”

Treharne said for now the city is looking to clean up the depot and make modifications to keep it intact.

The city will host a Jan. 14 “online public engagement” session about the project. Details about the session will be available on the city’s website at cityofmarion.org.

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

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