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Marion pegs Wynne firm for city’s downtown revitalization effort

Marion pegs Wynne firm for city’s downtown revitalization effort


Marion pegs Wynne firm for city’s downtown revitalization effort

Courthouse square to get makeover

Marion has selected a Wynne design firm to develop a plan to beautify and enhance the downtown area.

The city council agreed to hire Ecological Design Group, Inc. of Wynne for $45,000 to come up with ideas on how to improve an area in a one-mile radius of the county courthouse.

'It's looking down the road three to five years of what we want in the downtown area,' said Marion Chamber of Commerce President Mike Demster.

EDG specializes in environmentally friendly designs which create innovate outdoor spaces that re-connect the environment with the architecture to reflect the social and cultural aspects of the area.

Demster said EDG will develop a master plan which will help the city preserve the historical elements of the downtown and focus on signage, landscaping, and adding retail.

'A lot of cities have done this to lay out a plan to help set priorities,' Demster said. 'There will be an extensive process that we will go through from meetings with elected officials, property owners, to church groups and citizens. Hopefully we can get them in bite size pieces that we can afford to do in stages.'

Demster said EDG was one of four finalists selected by the reNew Marion Committee.

'It was a tough vetting process,' Demster said. 'I think everybody is confident the firm we selected is very capable.'

Councilman Kelly O'Neal questioned whether the $45,000 should be paid for by the city's Advertising and Promotions Commission which administers the money collected from the one cent sales tax to promote Marion instead of the city.

'Could this be an A& P thing,' O'Neal asked.

'They're sitting on a million dollars.' Mayor Frank Fogleman said the money for the study was included in this year's budget.

'You could make an argument for that,' Fogleman said. 'If we want to ask A& P to fund it, that's a route we could go. I'd like to turn the people loose and approve this.'

City Attorney James 'Jimbo' Hale said he was concerned that the contract went beyond just developing a plan and included utilizing the firm for any construction projects that would emerge from their proposals.

'There is a lot more that is in this contract,' Hale said.

Demster admitted the contract needed some revisions but said some of the sections would not apply.

'We've got some work to do on that,' Demster said.

'But a lot of what is in there is irrelevant.'

Ed Cain, a city planner and member of reNew Marion, said the contract is a standard American Institute of Architects contract and agreed with Demster that any additional work outside of developing a plan would need to be approved by the city council.

'I looked at the contract,' Cain said. 'Most of the language in there is not relevant to what we will be doing. The study they will do is a $45,000 study. If we want to add to it down the line if we identify some projects and we get funding for it, then we might want to get the same bunch to do the design and let the contracts and supervise the construction. The contract was made up for that. But before we do any of that we would have to authorize that as an amendment to the contract.'

Demster said the contract is just to develop a vision and roadmap of how they want to see the downtown develop.

'The starting point is to get this master plan,' Demster said. 'The need for the plan is very valid and something we need to do.'

Fogleman agreed.

'If there is no construction, then that part of the contract doesn't apply,' Fogleman said. 'This is merely to develop a plan.'

Hale said he doesn't want to see the city sign a contract that goes beyond what they want to do.

'A contract is binding,' Hale said. 'It doesn't matter what your intentions are.

It's what it says in the contract.'

The council voted 5-1 to approve the contract.

O'Neal cast the lone “no” vote.

'We're approving $45,000 for the study only,' Councilman Bryan Jackson affirmed.

By Mark Randall

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