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New library construction costs under review
by DJ Kauffman Correspondent · June 22nd, 2017

Marion City Manager Lon Pluckhahn attended a special meeting with the Marion Public Library Board of Trustees and Director Elsworth Carman at the library on Wednesday, June 14, at 5:30 p.m. He said plans for City funding of the new library in a mixed-use facility are under in-depth review, citing financial constraints.

According to Pluckhahn, he is currently working with two separate development companies. One proposal is related to the re-use of the current library site, and the other is considering a multi-purpose facility design (including a new library) replacing the strip mall east of City Square Park.

Pluckhahn, who is carefully looking at the budgets for both projects, said the current proposed cost is higher than expected. He said, as a single project, it cannot support the swelling percentage increase for extra development fees and land costs at this point (the first financial assessment was much lower in 2012). "People understand appreciation costs of time. But 25 percent would not be well received," he said.

The mixed-use project could possibly contain apartments, along with the library, and a retail component. Pluckhahn said this is one of the City's biggest challenge areas because commercial space yields more revenue than residential. And "the City needs to get the most yield for its investment."

The cost of an underground parking area for residents remains a concern and is currently included in the mixed-used plan. Pluckhahn stated that the developers were exploring a more cost-effective plan for parking. He said a precast, above-ground parking structure with more than 200 parking spaces in Uptown Marion would save about $1 million dollars in construction costs. He also said that with this type of construction, the levels are assembled like LEGOs, and additional ones could easily be added later if needed.

Pluckhahn said he remains cautiously optimistic as he continues to look over floor plans and budgets to make sure there are no duplicate costs. And, "if infrastructure seems high, we need to find other opportunities," he said.

Pluckhahn also said some have suggested the City is trying to drive the market, but in reality, it is only following market readings, and the response to the RFP for the existing library site demonstrates that. He suggested that without such positive market trends, businesses "do not make that type of investment."

In addition, the most cost-effective approach for the City may be to combine both projects into one package for possible government funding. Since this would be the largest project of its kind in Marion, Pluckhahn said he is researching all available outside resources.

During the session, the library board expressed concern they might miss out on a new library construction opportunity without the City's committed support. The Marion Public Library website ( states the following reason for needing a new library facility: "Libraries need flexible spaces to accommodate a variety of uses and meet new kinds of needs. We not only need more space; we need a different kind of space."
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