Thursday, Dec 5, 2013
Marion Encourages Downtown Business Beautification
MARION -- There's a new initiative to help spruce up downtown Marion. It's part of an ongoing effort to improve the town square area in hopes of drawing in more visitors and new businesses.
City leaders plan to complement recently restored buildings by providing an incentive for business owners to make their own improvements and invest in their front doors.
Ivan Zwick's business, Raymond James Financial Services, has been open on the Marion square for the past 20 years. Before that, he ran a shoe store for 46 years in a building across the street.
"This is the heart of Marion and a lot of people, particularly the ones that have been here a long time, feel the same way," he said.
Several of the buildings are historic and more than 100 years old, which means many require restoration.
"I'm going to do a lot of work on my windows and make them more attractive," said Zwick.
The Vault Café has already set the example for other businesses, restoring an old bank and transforming the building into a restaurant. "It's nice to see that architecture preserved and enhanced," insisted Zwick.
Marion city leaders have spent the past couple years doing their part to make this area more attractive.
"We've done all new sidewalks around the area around town, we've put up a new lighting system all the way around," explained John Goss.
And now, thanks to a new restoration committee lead by Goss, downtown business owners like Zwick have a new incentive to undergo their own makeover.
"The idea is to make this, the facades and the front of these buildings visually pleasant for visitors that come through here and hopefully encourage new businesses to locate down here," Goss said.
The restoration committee is offering loans of up to $10,000 for beautification projects.
"When it's completed, the recipient will pay half of that back to the city on the advertised monthly payments of 3 percent," he said.
The loan is already sparking the interest of incoming businesses, like the martini bar Joe Lerner is working on revamping in the basement of Zwick's building.
We're going to be putting up a new awning and recovering it," he said.
Lerner is hoping to open his business in a couple weeks and says he only sees things on the Marion square going up from here.
"I just think it's going to continue to grow and continue to get better and I think there's going to be more businesses that are going to come down here and I think that you know, overall the economy's going to grow," insisted Lerner.
The committee is ready to start taking applications for restoration projects. Once they're approved, Marion city leaders will have to disperse the money.
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