There are 14 buildings in Marion’s Central Business District that will take advantage of a possible $500,000 state grant to improve their properties if the city council approves the application and resolution at Thursday’s meeting.
The area from 9th to 13th streets and from 7th to 8th avenues will be designated as a “slum/blighted” area, which is required for the Downtown Revitalization Façade Improvement Grant. These properties meet the Community Development Block Grant Program requirements because they need façade work to mortar, awnings, doors or windows to preserve the historic buildings. There are also properties in this area that are exempt because they didn’t require renovations.
Gary Hughes, grant writer with East Central Iowa Council of Governments, said there were 23 of the 44 properties that are eligible for façade renovations but only 14 will participate. Property owners will be responsible for 37 percent of their total repair, so the remaining owners opted out. The maximum grant is $500,000 and the city will commit to a local match of $250,000, but it may receive less.
“The state will award $3 to $4 million for this grant to cities across the state and I think Marion will have a good chance because it will fund 100 percent of the architectural designs and oversee construction,” Hughes said. “This will show the state the city is committed to the project. The city already asked architectural firms to bid on the proposed project.”
Marion City Manager Lon Pluckhahn said this is the first time Marion has been able to apply for a grant like this because it just became part of the Main Street Iowa program last year. The application is due Jan. 21, and the state will likely award the grants in March or April.
The Downtown Revitalization Fund provides grants to communities for various projects and activities contributing to comprehensive revitalization in historic city centers. The program has primarily funded façade improvements to privately owned buildings.
Marion also was awarded a $75,000 Main Street Iowa Challenge Grant Tuesday in Des Moines for the Memorial Hall Restoration Project. Marion will provide a $99,324 local match for the $174,324 project.
The Challenge grant program is funded through an appropriation from the Iowa Legislature, according to the Iowa Economic Development Authority. The grants to 14 communities will benefit local improvement projects such as façade improvement and restoration, stabilizing buildings devastated by fire, upper floor rehabilitation and stabilizing and rehabilitating severely deteriorated buildings.