Marion Cultural Corridor Vision Document Release

 

The Marion Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and Downtown  Marion Inc. released today the Marion Cultural Corridor Vision  Document. The Marion Cultural Corridor project is a collaboration  between the Marion Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) and  Downtown Marion Inc. The purpose of the project is to envision the  central corridor of Marion as the cultural hub of the community where  residents and visitors gather to experience a truly local environment of  shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues while creating a sense of  place that the community uses as a foundation for feelings of pride and  self-worth.  The term “cultural corridor” describes an area bounded on  the east by the Harding Home and Public Library and the west by Union  Station. 

 

A  working group was convened in November, 2016 consisting of Mark  Holbrook, Marion Area Convention & Visitors Bureau; Beth Meadows and  Clarissa Myers, Downtown Marion Inc.;  Pam Hall, Marion Area Chamber of  Commerce; Sherry Hall, Harding Home & Memorial; Mayor Scott  Schertzer, City of Marion; Andrew Carter, Marion Star; Lisa Mendoza,  Marion CanDo!; Bev Ford, Marion Palace Theatre; and BJ Gruber, Marion  Police Department. 

 

The group focused on the eight  elements to a successful city core; Streetscape, Commerce, Office Space,  Housing, Historic Preservation, Government Center, Culture and  Entertainment, and Open Space. Here is a summary of the findings:

 Streetscape 

The project  analyzed parking in the area and determined that there are adequate  spaces for demand, however better signage to identify public parking  should address the misconception of a lack of parking. In order to  enhance the view of the corridor’s historic architecture, the group  recommends evaluating physical obstacles to determined what changes may  be needed to open up the corridor streets visually. A lack of public  seating along sidewalks, public buildings, and park spaces was  identified. Public art in the form of building murals and the upcoming  Cardinal Community project were recognized as significant visual  enhancements to the area and continued exploration of additional public  art project is recommended. 

Commerce 

The  group identified the need to create a greater density of businesses in  the corridor district. That density is necessary to make the area a  destination for residents and visitors looking for places to shop, dine,  and be entertained. The growing restaurant population in the area is  encouraging and should be matched be an equal increase in local shops  featuring artists and craftspeople.  

Office Space 

While  Marion’s downtown currently houses a number of office space-type  businesses, attracting additional tenants in this area makes sense. The  more people working downtown, the more support retailers and restaurants  will receive. It is believed that, as more restaurants, shops, and  cultural businesses open, the downtown will become a much more desirable  place for those seeking office space.  

Housing 

Of  the areas of downtown develop that Marion excels, downtown housing is  among the best. With more than 200 units available in the main corridors  of Center and Church Streets, current housing levels meet or exceed  demand. However, we believe that, as the Cultural Corridor develops,  demand will increase. Planning by building owners and others should keep  an eye toward expanding housing availability in step with business  development. 

Historic Preservation 

Regardless of  size, a city or town’s historic downtown architecture is the aesthetic  core of a community’s identity. Older buildings have a character and  individuality uniquely suited to the types of businesses that make a  downtown a destination. Artists, crafts people, and other small  businesses just seem to fit in vintage storefronts. Responsible property  owners have done well in restoration of buildings and these are the  ones that are seeing good results in occupancy. It will be important as  we go forward to identify properties that could be a detriment to  development and seek solutions through education of buildings owners. 

Government Center 

In  evaluating this element of our community, we have found that downtown  Marion is indeed the government center for our community. With city and  county offices firmly positioned in the heart of the corridor, Marion  can be proud that our local government remains where it began in 1822.  

Culture and Entertainment 

Marion’s  city core is fortunate to include a large historic theatre, President’s  home, historic railroad station, large county museum, and a variety of  other historic structures. The working group identified a need for more  small spaces for artists and performers who are a better fit for small  venues. 

Open Space 

Other than its  architecture, nothing defines a downtown more than its open spaces. Open  spaces are not the absence of buildings, but rather the presence of  intentional areas for people to gather formally and informally. Open  spaces are also valuable in slowing down the pace in a downtown. They  can create a desire to stop and experience instead of passing through. 

 

Research  of other towns in Ohio showed that most had a main public gathering  place. Much speculation has accompanied the recent demolition of  buildings at Main and Church Streets adjacent to Founders Park. While  the Cultural Corridor Working Group’s role is not to make specific  recommendations for particular properties, we do encourage the  evaluation to address how using this space to create a permanent  gathering place for outdoor performances and other activities would  greatly benefit the community. 

Conclusion 

Few  would argue the necessity of revitalizing our city core to spur economic  growth in our community. A thriving, engaging cultural corridor  facilitates entrepreneurial endeavors, is attractive to large businesses  coming to Marion, keeps more dollars local, attracts more visitors, and  helps to create a positive image for Marion. Beyond that, there is a  more important reason to see the center of our city filled with  locally-owned or managed restaurants, shops, attractions, and  entertainment venues. That is, to regain a proper balance in our  community. In the absence of a healthy city core, a community loses its  sense of self - it forgets how to spend time together strolling down its  streets, becoming friends with business owners, and feeling like you  belong. The challenge is a difficult one as the modern world presses in  for us to shop online, dine at chain restaurants with huge marketing  budgets, and stay isolated in our homes gazing at screens of all sizes.  And the results of succumbing to this new community model are ones we  are experiencing today. High unemployment, drug abuse, young residents  moving away and more come not just from a lack of opportunity, but also  from the absence of communal ties. If people don’t feel like they have a  stake in their community, they are less likely to invest in it.  

While  we as a community will strive to plan well, make wise decisions about  our community’s future, and employ best practice for revitalization,  none of this will succeed without fostering and supporting the dreamers  in our community. Entrepreneurs are people who cannot not do what their  passion leads them to. We must as a community support these potential  business owners by removing obstacles, encouraging creativity and risk  taking, and investing in them with our time and dollars. Small business  owners are the future of, not only our downtown, but our entire  community. We should pledge together to support those with dreams,  ideas, and passion. That pledge must come from elected officials,  government departments, community leaders, and all Marion County  residents. 

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