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$22.5-million Makeover Coming for Marion Shopping Center

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MARION, Iowa -- A once-vibrant Marion retail that had run down to its last few retail tenants is on the cusp of a $22.5 million makeover that city officials expect to boost Marion's retail stature.

Work on Lincolnview Square, a 16-acre retail and office development, will begin next spring at the southwest corner of 35th Street and 7th Avenue where the Marion Shopping Center has stood for more than 40 years. It will include a new CVS drug store, Linn Area Credit Union, and restaurants.

The shopping center was a retail hub for Marion in the 1970s, with a Sun Mart grocery, drug store, Honda motorcycle dealership, bowling alley and coin laundry.

As retailing changed, Marion Shopping Center leased more and more of its space to non-retail tenants. The last big Marion Shopping Center retailer, Orscheln Farm & Home, pulled out early this year.

Shopping center owners Marvin and Jim Brown partnered with Abode Construction of Cedar Rapids to develop Lincolnview Square, named after the historic Lincoln Highway. The project will expand the developed area of the center to unused land to the south and relocate most existing tenants into new buildings, according to Hannah Kustes, vice president of Abode.

Work will begin next spring on construction of a new Linn Area Credit Union building at the site of the current Marion Farmer's Market and a new CVS drug store at the site of the current Hardee's restaurant, Kustes said. Both will have frontage on 7th Avenue.

The next phase of the project will shift to the south side of the property, where two 22,000-square-foot, two-level buildings will be constructed. They will house most of the tenants relocating within the center, Kustes said.

The redevelopment plans call for demolition of virtually every building in the center, including those that house Marion Bowl, Hardee's and Carquest.

Owners of the bowling center said they are continuing to operate the bowling center as normal and awaiting word on how the project will affect them.

Many regional and national retail chains active in surrounding communities have wanted to come to Marion, according to Marion City Manager Lon Pluckhahn, but a shortage of newer retail space meeting their design standards kept them away. He said the Lincolnview Square project will help overcome that hurdle.

Businesses in the center will have access via a central boulevard with sidewalks, landscaping and street lights, Kustes said. Two multi-tenant retail buildings, each about 12,600 square feet in size, will be located on the south side of the boulevard.

The Marion City Council approved tax increment financing (TIF) for the redevelopment project on Thursday, Nov. 3. The incentives divert extra property taxes that will be collected because of the increased assessed valuation of the redeveloped property into a fund to reimburse some of the development costs. The TIF incentives are estimated at $2.1 million, with a maximum value of $2.5 million, Pluckhahn said.

Lincolnview Square fits with the city's desire to redevelop older commercial properties with more dense commercial developments. The new and denser developments increase the city's taxable property base without requiring the extension of city services and infrastructure to undeveloped areas, Pluckhahn said.

"We know redevelopment is more expensive than greenfield development, and we're trying to level the playing field," Pluckhahn said.

Present non-retail tenants of the center include Iowa State University Extension, Hawkeye area Community Action Program, Marion Physical Therapy, Care Chiropractic, and C.J. Cooper. The latter is a drug testing company.

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