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Imagining what is next for Marion
by DJ Kauffman Correspondent · October 12th, 2017

An ImagiNEXT community improvement campaign was promoted during the Marion Chamber of Commerce 80th Annual Meeting on Wednesday, October 4, at the Marriott Hotel on Collins Road in Cedar Rapids. The City of Marion is taking its next step forward as part of an Iowa Great Place initiative.

Marion Chamber of Commerce President Jill Ackerman presented the new campaign and opened with a quote from Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

The City of Marion is a great example of this as the ImagiNEXT project comes on the heels of a 2009 Imagine8 (eight projects), which includes the new Marion YMCA and a new Marion Public Library.

According to the Marion Chamber, "The ImagiNEXT process will engage the greater Marion area in an open, all-inclusive conversation to develop great ideas that reinforce the fact that Marion, Iowa is the best place to raise a family and grow a business."

During the the 11:30 a.m. luncheon, Principal Community Planner Zachary Mannheimer of McClure Engineering Company in Des Moines, spoke to the audience and showed slides of successful capital improvement projects in other cities. He explained the benefits of repurposing older buildings into unique commercial venues. For example, he showed a slide of a building that was transformed into a world-renowned center for artists.

Afterwards, more than 370 attendees seated around tables were asked to write down their own inspired ideas for Marion and then pass the small booklet pages to others, who could then add to the original idea if they chose to do so. The inspired ideas were eventually collected and placed in envelopes provided by the Marion Chamber for submission.

One person suggested purchasing and transforming the current on-the-market First United Methodist Church building in Uptown Marion into an artists' venue. Other ideas included burying electrical wiring along 7th Avenue and adding an ice arena.

The Chamber is also asking for public involvement and is hoping to receive 3,000 ImagiNEXT ideas submitted by January 15, 2018. The Chamber suggests area social groups get together and brainstorm ideas for submission. More information about conducting a brainstorming session and a printable toolkit can be found at

ImagiNEXT ideas can be submitted at; SUBMIT IDEAS, and then select a topic from one of the following four categories: "Arts, Culture, Programming & Recreation."

According to Director of Member Services Tami Schlamp, the ImagiNEXT Steering Committee is looking for 18 to 21 individual volunteers who are interested in serving on a Selection Committee designed to narrow the large list of ideas to between three and five. Applications are available at Select Committee and are due November 4, 2017.

Schlamp added, "For the next several months, community members will also form groups and brainstorm ideas they think could make Marion an even better place to live, work and play."
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