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By Corey Munson, Marion Times | January 18th, 2013 |
Marion has been named a Main Street community by Main Street Iowa, paving the way for additional economic development in the Uptown District.
The announcement comes just days after a group of representatives from Marion traveled to Des Moines to present their case for why Marion should be included in Iowa’s Main Street program.
Cities are rated by a committee based on its application and presentation, given points and then, depending on that score, invited to become a Main Street community. Last year Marion fell just a few points short and was the only community specifically invited back this year by the committee to present again. Representatives from Marion were also offered some advice on additions to include in the application process which might help their chances.
“We are elated to have the opportunity to be part of the Main Street Iowa program,” said Marion Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jill Ackerman. “The Main Street Iowa program started in 1985 it has driven over one billion dollars in total private development invested into Iowa’s downtown structures. Marion looks forward to using the tools and resources available to Main Street Iowa communities to drive the number even higher.”
Ackerman led the effort to secure the designation for Marion.
The ‘Main Street Four Point Approach’ was conceived in 1977 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C., and tested in three pilot locations throughout the United States.
In 1985, the Iowa Legislature adopted the National Main Street Center’s approach to historic commercial district revitalization by approving the establishment of Main Street Iowa.
The mission of the Main Street Iowa Program is to improve the social and economic well-being of Iowa’s communities by assisting selected communities to capitalize on the unique identity, assets and character of their historic commercial district. Main Street is economic development within the context of historic preservation.
Specifically, in Marion, this applies to the Uptown District, the area surrounding City Square Park.
“We took twenty community leaders to present to the state Main Street Advisory Board last Thursday,” Ackerman said. “I feel very confident that we represented Marion well. Our group included business leaders, artists, elected officials and students. Each and every one of them did a phenomenal job of representing Uptown Marion as well as telling the story of why we deserve to be part of the Main Street Iowa program.”
Main Street encourages cities and helps fund, in a limited way, preservation efforts in the following areas:
Economic Restructuring/Business Improvement – This element involves diversifying the commercial district economy by identifying potential market niches, finding new uses for vacant or underused spaces and improving business practices.
Design – Utilizing appropriate design concepts, the visual quality of the commercial district (buildings, signs, window displays, landscaping, and environment) is enhanced.
Organization – Each community has many groups of people who are interested in and are willing to work toward the goal of a revitalized commercial district. The organizational element brings together the public sector, private groups and individual citizens, with coordination by a paid program manager, to work more effectively in the commercial district.
Promotion – By promoting the downtown in a positive manner, a community can begin to focus on the commercial district as a source of community pride, social activity and economic development potential.
“The Main Street program focuses on four key initiatives: Organization, Economic Restructuring, Design and Promotion,” Ackerman said. “We look forward to using the Main Street approach to strengthen and grow the Uptown area and to build relationships with other Iowa downtown centers.”
“We are so proud of our community leaders who stepped up to the plate to put together the lengthy application,” Ackerman continued. “We delivered a solid presentation to the state last Thursday, that will be available for anyone to view at our website, www.marioncc.org. Marion has come a long way in the last several years and there are so many progressive projects on the horizon.”