Jackson County Times

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Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 Will Be Year of Improvement In Downtown Marianna

By Bo McMullian

The New Year 2010 will bring a new look to downtown Marianna, just across Lafayette Street from the courthouse. Madison Park will include a business—the farmers’ market—and a recreation park the size of two city blocks.

City officials said Monday the bids should be let by the middle of January for the final $253,000 portion of the project which began under the watch of former city manager Louy Harris, among others, in 2006. That will bring the total monies spent on this park to $905,000, with almost all of that sum being from state and federal grants.

A 5,880-square-foot brick pavilion will be built in the new park, primarily for use as the new farmers’ market replacing the facility and current site on Jackson Street but also to be used for outdoor concerts and events. The structure will top the hill overlooking the Winn-Dixie stores to the east. No fill dirt at all is planned for the park, City Manager Jim Dean said; none is needed. The farmers’ market pavilion will sit at the north end of the property and a smaller “picnic pavilion” will sit in the middle. The two pavilions will be surrounded by landscaped open space with walkways and parking spaces.

A parking lot was planned for the area just north of the Cannon tax building but that plan was nixed about two months ago by the state recreational development granting authority. Officials said the area needed to remain green and couldn’t be paved over. The grants provide the stipulation that as much land as possible be left for open space, Dean said. Two rundown houses that faced Clinton Street were removed this year

Dean and Main Street Marianna Director Charlotte Bruner say the Cannon tax building is apparently not for sale, at any price. They have tried to buy it for years. The doors were closed Monday morning and phone calls to Neal Williams Real Estate Broker and Cannon Tax Service, posted on signs out front, indicated the phones were out of service.

As soon as USDA Rural Development officials conduct a final inspection of the city’s revised plans, Dean said, the city will begin taking bids. That is expected to happen in January, and will be for the pavilions construction, landscaping and other final touches.

Here’s how the project “evolved” into what it is today, according to Dean. As far back as 2004, Harris and the city sought and obtained a $400,000 grant from the state’s Florida Community Trust (FCT) to purchase the land. A performing arts center was hoped for but funding for that was never found. About two years ago money became available from USDA Rural Development, the $253,000, but that had to be used to “assist a new or emerging small business.” Since the Jackson County Commission, which owns the site of the farmers market on Jackson Street, needs the parking and building space, officials with the Jackson County Growers’ Association were happy to agree to move to the much more visible location at Madison Park.

Additional funding was secured from the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program, $132,000, and the city special tax district called the Community Redevelopment Area (city commissioners sit as the governing board), $95,000.

Madison Park should be open “sometime in the summer,” Dean said, “depending on the weather and the contract availability.”

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