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A Main Street District

By Jodi Harris, City Revealed | August 1, 2013 |

If you have visited Marion, you know it is a unique community featuring the essence of a small town blended with a touch of magic. It brings you back time after time, to experience the wonder of the Uptown Marion Main Street District. In fact, in 2013, Marion was designated as a Main Street Iowa Community. This designation is awarded to Iowa cities which have submitted their vision for historic and economic development plans for the future. Once granted the designation, they must adhere to a series of mandatory requirements including having a full-time program director to oversee the program and submit monthly reports to the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA). Marion is also required to meet a series of annual assessments set out by IEDA. Nick Glew is Marion’s Main Street program director.

The Main Street Iowa program began in 1986 with a goal of providing new economic life in the historic commercial districts of Iowa communities. Since then, more than 11,500 new jobs have been created in Main Street Iowa Districts. There has also been over 1 billion dollars invested in downtown structures since the program started.

Marion’s Main Street program is “Uptown Marion” and reflects an existing brand which they have built over the past several years in reference to their downtown area. The Marion Chamber of Commerce was a driving force in helping the city become a Main Street Iowa Community, as were many volunteers who helped gather historic and economic information. Judy Hull, a dedicated volunteer was recognized as Marion’s Volunteer of the Year at the 27th annual Main Street Iowa Awards celebration held on May 17th, in Des Moines. “Judy’s passion for the heritage of our community was critical in Marion receiving this designation. We are extremely fortunate to have someone like Judy who has a true passion for making sure we remember our history as we continue to grow as a community. Uptown Marion’s Main Street application couldn’t have been completed without Judy,” as quoted in a May 23, 2013 Media Release by Nick Glew.

There are currently over sixty active volunteers working on various committees of the Uptown Marion organization. Their mission is to drive continued revitalization, growth, and preservation of the historic character of the district through appropriate design, promotion, and economic strategies with a community focus. To support that goal, the team is comprised of a promotions committee; a business improvement committee; design committee; and an organization committee. The promotions committee works to market the district to establish a unified image and encourage an exciting variety of activities for all members of the community. Business improvement is already implementing strategies to strengthen and broaden the economic base of Uptown Marion. The design community capitalizes on visual appeal by encouraging the improvement of the district’s physical appearance. Finally, the organization committee ensures appropriate funding and volunteer support is always in place to move the work of all committees in a positive direction.

Jeanne and Paul Matthews believe in the excitement and energy of Uptown Marion. The couple recently purchased Memorial Hall at 760 11th Street. “All you have to do is drive through Marion and spend a little time …going through a shop or getting a little lunch or a glass of wine, and you will feel it,” says Jeanne Matthews, Marion Resident, Skogman Realtor, and a member of the Uptown Marion Board of Directors. The Matthews will completely restore Memorial Hall, built in 1899, into their personal residence on the second floor with new viable commercial space on the first floor. “We are all really excited. Our new building is going to be part of this. It is in the heart of the revitalization and we are excited and thrilled to be a part of it,” says Matthews.

Uptown Marion is Main Street Iowa and if you have not visited recently, now is the time to come experience the magic of the unique, funky, revitalized community that is just next door, around the corner, or out your back door. Don’t miss out on the food, fun, shopping, and excitement as Uptown Marion continues to develop into the re-energized revitalized unique place to go and see in Iowa.

If you would like to volunteer to become a part of the excitement, contact Nick Glew at nick@marioncc.org or 319.743.4726. It takes a village to build a dream…

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