The last few days have been fun for Mayor Todd Heitschmidt, because he’s had good news to share about downtown Main St.
After two prior applications were declined, city officials received word last week that $715,904 is coming from Kansas Department of Transportation for downtown revitalization between First and Fifth Sts.
Heitschmidt shared the news Monday with Lori and Doug Heerey.
“My wife and I were walking at the SAC when they came up and I asked if they had heard yet,” Heitschmidt said.
“We talked with Todd last night and we were just high-fiving,” Lori Heerey said. “We’re really excited. It’s been needed.”
Sidewalks and lighting will be major components addressed by the plan, which City Administrator Roger Holter said received extensive input from the public.
“A lot of thought was put into not only the aesthetics of it, but to make our community so we can take pride in our downtown,” PRIDE committee member Margaret Wilson said.
New light posts will be lower and of a vintage style complementary to the historic lineage of downtown’s stone buildings, Holter said. Placed between the street lights will be tri-globed lights, carrying a signature theme of Central Park through the business district.
“One of the things the state said last year was how amazing it was the downtown is close to the park,” Heerey said. “They saw that as a huge plus. It will be phenomenal if they can do that.”
Power lines also will be buried, with electric outlets placed in poles to facilitate decorative lighting.
New sidewalks are planned that will include a brick ribbon to define the walking path and establish separation from the curb, and a bike path could be incorporated in one of the blocks, Holter said.
While handicap-accessible curb cuts at most intersections are sloped appropriately, most aren’t marked to be in compliance with Americans with Disability Act standards. Holter said corners and crosswalks would be redesigned to establish semicircular safe zones where pedestrians can be clearly seen by drivers.
Landscaping, benches, and trash receptacles also will be incorporated into the project.
The overall intent, Holter said, is to create a more uniform, attractive, and functional downtown corridor that will encourage existing and future businesses to develop.
Heitschmidt said some reactions have been more subdued, as individuals have questioned how the city will come up with $178,976 to match the state’s contribution.
The project’s projected completion date in 2018 provides flexibility to consider alternatives, Heitschmidt said.
“This is probably the best time for this to happen for the city,” he said. “This has given us two to three years to reduce our debts. How we gather our share of the funds we can spread out over two fiscal years, maybe three. That makes funding our share of the project easier.”
Heitschmidt and others were quick to credit consulting engineer Darin Neufeld of EBH Associates for his expertisse in helping to modify rejected proposals into what was finally accepted.
Months of detailed design work and surveying lie ahead, Heitschmidt said, with the possibility of retaining a contractor and starting work in fall 2017.
“If we have a light winter we may get a start before the end of 2017,” he said.
Heitschmidt said getting the grant combined with recent business developments has created optimism in the community.
“When things are positive, things are contagious,” he said. “Marion appears to be on the move again, and it appears there are people who want to be a part of it. It’s exciting. We’ve laying the groundwork for the next wave of positive growth.”