Two distinct eastern Iowa communities now share the same honor which will generate public attention as well as public money to further their economic and cultural development.
Marion and the Iowa City/North Liberty/Coralville community were both recognized as Great Places by the Iowa’s Department of Cultural Affairs. Marion and the Iowa City area share the honor with four other communities, making them eligible for technical and financial assistance that could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state to develop proposals and projects that will cultivate their unique qualities and make them attractive places to live and visit.
Jill Ackerman, the director of Marion’s Chamber of Commerce, said she was thrilled Thursday afternoon to hear that Marion had made the cut. She said that the city’s history and its forward thinking community set them apart from other community applicants.
“Marion will be seeing a neat juxtaposition of the old and the new we’ll be bringing in,” Ackerman said. She said that the state’s grants could go many ways but that much of the money and effort will go to improving the city’s parks and trails.
“There’s also been a lot of talk about a new recreation center and community center… an initiative that’s gaining a lot of momentum.”
Hugh Farrar, the associate director of the UI International Writing Program, helped write the grant proposals to the state back in March. He said that the Iowa City area’s unique creative community entitled the community to recognition.
“Economy and creativity are symbiotic,” Farrar said. “You won’t attract businesses to your town unless you have the culture that would attract young people of top caliber who’d be willing to work there.”
Farrar said that the city’s new projects, like education outreach and building projects, will be functions of its great literary tradition. On top of being an Iowa Great Place, it also shares the designation of “City of Literature,” one only given to Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne in Australia.
“The Great Place program wants to reward cities with a sense of place… with an identity,” Farrar said. “Our community’s commitment to literature, literacy, to creativity, they’ve established that sense of place.”
The communities selected Friday include the following:
The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance, which includes the cities of Cedar Falls, Evansdale and Waterloo; Iowa City/Coralville/North Liberty; the city of Marion; Tama County; the Turkey River Corridor, and the Villages of Van Buren County.
A formal announcement of the communities’ selection is scheduled for Oct. 16 in Des Moines.