Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

August 4, 2013

Downtown Marion hoping to become cultural center

Vacant buildings, lack of restaurants are a hindrance to progress

(Continued)

“Their focus is from the river to 14th Street," he said. "I don’t consider that downtown.”

Lobbell said Main Street Marion is responsible for downtown landscaping and it receives no funding from city government.“There are no restaurants downtown,” he said. “There is no place downtown to get a cup of coffee. Everyone talks about the need for a restaurant on the courthouse square.”Lobbell said there are plenty of vacant buildings available.Loretta Walker, director of Main Street Marion, said the group encourages businesses to locate downtown, but there is no financial assistance.“We’re putting together a pack of information about the downtown,” she said. “It will include traffic counts and available properties. We want to attract businesses that will be successful in the downtown.”Main Street Marion sponsors regular First Friday events from May through August in an effort to bring people to the downtown area.“We’re more involved in marketing and promotion,” Walker said. “We try to highlight the assets that are downtown.”Walker said the organization would like to see a restaurant open on the courthouse square, but to her knowledge, none are planned.

Between $24 million and $30 million has been invested in the downtown area, said Marion Mayor Wayne Seybold, but it's not as quickly recognized because it's not centered in one location.

"It used to be if you shot a gun in downtown Marion after 4 p.m., you wouldn't hit anyone," he said. "Now with the community arts all locating in the downtown area, there are about 1,000 kids in the area. The civic theater, symphony and dance studios are downtown."

Seybold said the city hopes to get one or two restaurants to open on the courthouse square in the near future.

Marion, like many communities, has a facade program for local businesses to change the look of their storefronts.

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