A Step Closer to Another Imagine8 Goal
Last week, on January 28th, the Marion Library Board of Trustees met in special session to consider the two responses to the Request for Qualifications it issued last September. This was an important decision for the library and the city. The Board took the time it needed to properly evaluate the responses and determined that Ryan Companies was best qualified to take on the project of developing a mixed-use library facility. I’m now working on the details of a development agreement with Brad Thomason; Brad is a division manager of Ryan Companies and a Marion resident.
Ryan is a national company with headquarters in Minneapolis and a regional office in Cedar Rapids. They are seasoned developers with significant financial capacity, a network of connections, and plenty of relevant experience with developments similar in type and scale to ours. Ryan has been directly involved in the development of a number of local metro area projects and they have a stake in the economic well-being of the community.
The Board’s decision did not accept or endorse a particular project or design. The next steps will include working with community stakeholders to analyze the project’s context, and an extensive public input program.
The history and charm of Marion is one of our most important assets. It’s critical that Uptown Marion’s new structures be compatible with the remaining historic buildings. On the other hand, Marion is growing and changing. The current City branding project envisions Marion in 20 years as a city of 60,000. New designs are needed to accommodate what the city is becoming and to re-knit the urban fabric that has eroded over time. The library project offers an opportunity to move forward while honoring the past.
We also have to engage the community to get a better idea of what our users will need from us in the future, and then design a facility that meets those needs. We have a pretty good idea of what people need from us now and the Needs Assessment we did last year gave us some good starting points for looking ahead. We will need public input to test our conclusions, but we know that we’ll be emphasizing spaces for children’s and teen services. Almost 30% of Marion’s population is under 20 years of age. That’s a prime audience for libraries.
In 2008 Marion started a visioning process to determine what kind of community it wanted to be in the future. The entire city participated and over the course of a year’s effort, 100 ideas were narrowed to 30 and then 30 were narrowed to eight—The Imagine8 ideas. The future we envisioned then is becoming our present.
A community-wide WiFi network provides the telecommunication infrastructure needed for education and business. Children and families enjoy new splash pads every summer. The development of our trail system helped Marion to earn its Blue Zone designation. The Klopfenstein Amphitheatre for the Performing Arts is the jewel of our park system. The City is working with the YMCA on plans for a Function & Fitness Center. And now we’re on the road to the idea Imagine8 called Book It—a 21st century library and cultural center. This is a great time to be living in Marion.
You can ask to see a copy of the Ryan Companies response to our RFQ at the Information Desk.