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Marion library ready to move forward

By Deirdre Ryan, Marion Times | June 25th, 2015 |

Times … they are a changing. You either move forward with growth and progressions, or you miss out on the new opportunities that possibly await.

As the city of Marion expands rapidly, the Marion Public Library would like to ensure, they too, are keeping up with the ‘times.’ And not just keep up; they want to forge ahead and set the bar high. This is the goal with plans for the new library.

“We have to make sure there is something to come to this part of town for in the future,” noted Marion Library Director Doug Raber. “The vision is for a vital and thriving Marion that does not get bypassed by the expansions… this will be a social gathering place for people; we want commerce to stay downtown. It will also particularly help with our children’s area. The city census show there are a lot of kids in this community – this will help us to provide services to the children.”

Although final plans and designs for the library are not completed at this time, construction is estimated to begin in the spring of 2016. The building of a new Marion library was actually an conceived a few years ago.

“We’re very excited about this,” said Raber. “We’ve been building up to this for a couple of years now. It reflects how Marion is changing… the population is constantly growing and we want to gain control of the change.”

A brand new library for the city was not a decision taken lightly, either. The final decision to move forward with the project was decided upon by the Marion Library Building Committee, Marion Community Stakeholders, the Marion Library Board, Friends of the Library and Foundation and many frequent library users.

This final agreement process took over a year, and many assessments were done on what the internal staff needs were, as well as the external needs of the community. To assist with the assessments and plans, Vernon Research out of Cedar Rapids was also brought on board.

“This will be one of the largest private development investments in Marion,” commented Raber. “This is big. Marion is moving up, and this is increasing the value in Uptown. We’re on the ‘big guys’ radar now!”

Throughout this summer, the final design plans will be completed. Proposals are being compiled right now, and by mid-July, Raber noted that an architect for the new Marion Library will be in place.

Raber and the Marion Library staff would also like to welcome the input of the community! Within about one week, with the help of Vernon Research, the Marion Library will launch a Needs Assessment Survey to the public. It will help get additional input from library users on the upcoming project.

Raber definitely urges anyone who uses the library or who has an interest in the project to complete the survey. This Needs Assessment Survey can be found on the Marion Library’s website at http://www.marionpubliclibrary.org/

For some residents in Marion, there is speculation, though. Is a brand new library really necessary, and how will this be funded? There are many questions in regards to this project, which are expected whenever major changes and investments are made. Raber and his staff feel that all questions and inquiries are important, and that is why they have worked diligently to compile an FAQ list, which can also be located on the Marion Public Library’s website at http://www.marionpubliclibrary.org/ in the Inspire: Building Marion’s Future portion under Library Project: Frequently Asked Question (FAQ).

Here are some of the questions listed on the site, with responses from the Library Staff.

What is the mixed-use library project and where did the idea come from?

To solve the problem of providing the kind of library Marion needs and to meet expectations for adding community value, the Board hit on the innovative idea of a mixed-use facility. It issued a Request for Qualifications to developers and selected Ryan Companies of Cedar Rapids as a development partner.

Ryan proposed a mixed-use development that, in addition to the library, would include market rate rental (non-income based) housing and a retail component. A specialty grocery would be ideal to sustain the residential component.

The primary goal of the project is to ensure that Marion has excellent library service, but a mixed-use development also provides a way to leverage private investment into a public good and save taxpayer money.

Is it true that the library project is going to cost the City $28 million?

No, the total value of the mixed-use project is expected to be about $28 million. The library component of the project is expected to cost about $12 million to build, but the City’s cost will be about $10 million, possibly less, depending on the outcome of a capital campaign.

There will be no up-front costs to the City. The mixed-use project, including the library component, is a private project that will be financed entirely by Ryan Companies. In addition, Ryan Companies will purchase the existing building.

After completion of the library component, according to architectural requirements established by the Library Board of Trustees, the City will enter into a lease-purchase agreement for the library space. The residential and retail components will be subject to city property tax.

How will a mixed-use facility serve library users? Are apartments and a grocery store needed in Uptown Marion? Won’t there be parking problems?

A public/private partnership that yields a mixed-use facility developed by Ryan Companies will serve Marion in ways that benefit both library users and non-users.

Market studies and consultation with realtors reveal that there is a lack of market rate rental (non-income based) housing in Marion.

People with middle and upper middle class incomes are moving to Marion and looking for alternatives to purchasing a home or condo. Residential development requires retail support, especially accessibility to grocery stores.

Libraries are known to generate traffic that can contribute to economic development.

A mixed-use project that combines library services with market rate rental housing and a grocery can be a powerful combination for stimulating the growth and development of Uptown Marion.

A privately owned, mixed-use development will add taxable value to the community and provide increased property tax revenue.

Library traffic will drive commercial traffic and vice-versa. The resulting increase in property and sales tax revenue will benefit all Marion citizens.

The situation is win-win. Ryan Companies, a local metro area business, gets the opportunity to realize a good return on its investment, and the City gets a new, larger library at a significantly discounted construction cost.

Parking is already an issue for Uptown Marion and Ryan Companies is committed to contributing to a solution. Free, close-by parking for library users will be maintained. It’s one of the strongest attractions.

Additionally, there are specific needs for retail and residential parking that must be accommodated in order to make the project attractive to prospective renters and businesses. Those needs will be carefully considered when planning for the overall development.

*For the complete list of Marion Library FAQ’s and responses, visit the website athttp://www.marionpubliclibrary.org/

http://www.mariontoday.org/times/article.php?id=4279

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