The Marion PRIDE committee will meet with local engineer Darin Neufeld in one of the first steps toward acquiring a downtown revitalization grant.
The deadline for the grant application is October; PRIDE will shoot for this time next year to apply for the financial assistance.
Grant funds may only be used on public property. PRIDE member Pam Bowers said the top priority would be to refurbish light poles, either with fresh paint or with plastic covers.
Modifying whisky barrel planters in the city might be another visual element of downtown PRIDE can address, including adding flags or even putting in trees downtown.
“Peabody, Winfield, and Solomon have them,” Bowers said of trees. “It’s not impossible.”
The grant could also help with landscaping at the county courthouse, a complaint noted on many surveys.
“Thirty years ago I helped plant at the Courthouse,” Bowers said. “They have not had money to redo it.”
Downtown revitalization was the most important issue to survey residents polled in the PRIDE survey this summer. They wanted to see the “cute, quaint, and accessible” downtown keep its charm while adding new aspects to the Main Street area.
While new light posts were the most requested change in survey responses, the next item for residents was attracting more businesses downtown, especially for the former Duckwall’s building, which stands vacant.
Bowers said City Administrator Doug Kjellin has talked to a business about moving into the building.
Another location residents wanted to improve was the empty lot between the Duckwall’s building and the Suffield Building, which houses Zimmerman’s and PLANTations. DuWayne Suffield has talked about transforming the patch of lawn into an outdoor eating area for Zimmerman’s, Bowers said. Residents also suggested that the empty walls on either side of the lot could be used for a mural. PRIDE has yet to contact any local artists.
Other suggestions on surveys were smaller. Bowers has started to organize a group that will pull weeds downtown. She has also pondered creating an “adopt a block” program where residents would be responsible for maintaining a street.
One of the goals for Bowers is to keep expectations for PRIDE contributions realistic. Many residents complained that businesses should be encouraged to clean up facades.
“They all should be protected an cherished,” one resident wrote.
However, there is only so much PRIDE can accomplish for private properties.
Part of what PRIDE’s mission is to maintain what Marion’s downtown already features; one of their active projects is a group working to keep the Marion County Health Department building. The group will attend the next Marion County Commission meeting to express their support.
Bowers and other PRIDE members’ thoughts about downtown were summarized in the words of one resident:
“Treat this kind of upkeep work as an investment rather than an expense. If a town is well-maintained, offers good services, and is proactive in growth, the chances of survival will be greatly enhanced.”