The Town of Marion is anticipating starting construction on Phase Four of the downtown sidewalk project this summer. This phase will extend the brick-lined concrete, street trees, and pedestrian-scaled lighting from the intersection at Town Hall westward to the South Main split in front of the Blue Ridge Job Corps.
“This is an important piece of our continued work to make our whole community attractive and inviting,” said Olivia McDonald, Director of Marion Downtown. “VDOT and the Commonwealth Transportation Board recognizes the just how much the improved look plays in our recruiting and retaining businesses, boosts community pride, and serves as part of our overall strategy to tie in with the tourism-based cultural heritage initiatives. Marion's streetscape improvements have gone hand-in-hand with encouraging private reinvestment by building owners and store owners, and overall, the downtown program is generating over $27 private dollars for every $1 of public money invested. This important gateway into our downtown will help set the tone and distinguish our historic and unique downtown district.”
The community first tapped into the program in 1998 with the “Dew Downtown” campaign that removed most of the overhead power lines, outdated “cobra-head’ lighting fixtures, and broken concrete sidewalks, replacing them with a design that brought back a “walkable downtown streetscape.” The overhead lights were replaced with traditional acorn globes on fluted poles that hold decorative banners, sidewalks were replaced with new concrete highlighted with brick pavers, the overhead lines were removed, and street trees were reintroduced downtown. The most recent project was redevelopment of the North Iron Street Plaza, converting a narrow alleyway into a landscaped pedestrian walkway connecting the parking deck to Main Street next to the Lincoln Theatre.
“Projects of this magnitude take more time than anyone ever anticipates in the front end, “ said Ken Heath, Marion's director of Community and Economic Development. “We began this process nearly four years ago, applying for funding, developing architectural plans, and seeking bids. In the end, we discovered that the Town is able to do this project in house, with our own crews, and save significant time and taxpayer dollars at the same time. We are always looking for opportunities to bring grant dollars back to our town to use them as wisely as we can to get a bang for our buck. We are fortunate to have the leadership in place with our town manager Bill Rush, who brings his considerable construction and project management experience to our community, and a great Public Works crew that can get in and get the job done."
The Marion Streetscape project is anticipated to start this summer, with a late fall completion date. Sidewalks in the affected area will be temporarily closed, and motorists will be urged to use caution in the construction zone.
For more information, please contact Ken Heath at (276)378-5026 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.