City gets to-do list on armory

Marietta city officials say they are optimistic they can receive another extension on a six-year-old National Scenic Byways grant to help fund the third phase of the renovation of the former National Guard Armory on Front Street.

Ohio Department of Transportation officials and a representative of the Federal Highway Administration toured the 99-year-old structure Thursday and spoke with members of Marietta City Council about what would need to happen to earn the extension during a meeting of council’s public lands, buildings and parks committee at the armory.

“Right now we’re just waiting for an updated schedule,” said Shyna Gawell, Scenic Byways program manager for the Ohio Department of Transportation. “We basically just want to see what progress is being made.”

The second phase of construction, including roofing and structural repairs, is under way. But Phase 3, which would allow the ground floor of the building to be occupied by multiple entities and opened to the public, has not been designed yet and is unlikely to get under way before the June 30 deadline for the Scenic Byways grant.

City development director Andy Coleman said recent progress made on the overall project could convince state and federal officials to grant another extension.

“They may … look at the package and say, yes, they can give us some additional time,” he said.

One of the requirements of the grant is a certificate of occupancy, which the third phase of work is expected to provide. The intermodal transportation hub, including a bus station, would be open, as well as space for WASCO Inc., which will provide free maintenance services for the Armory, said lands, buildings and parks Chairman Harley Noland, D-at large.

“We envision (the ground floor) as being the information center,” Noland said. “Here’s everything you need to know about Marietta.”

There was some question as to how much of the grant could be used toward the third phase since it was originally earmarked for plumbing and electrical work. City engineer Joe Tucker said that portion of phase three is expected to cost a little more than $185,000, which would not use the full grant amount.

The project “was never conceptualized to be built in these phases,” Tucker said, when asked why the grant amount was for more than what was needed in the phase.

Neosha Price, environmental and realty specialist with the Federal Highway Administration, said she would be willing to review a requested change in scope so the money could be used for other things, but those aren’t usually granted.

“Generally, once the grant is administered … we don’t usually allow grantees to change the scope,” she said.

Noland said he believes the funds could be used for other portions of phase 3 because that work would help earn the required certificate of occupancy.

Tucker noted the city also must come up with $63,000 in local matching funds for the grant, which Armory Square Inc., the nonprofit group helping support the renovation, has been working to obtain.

“They’re out there looking. They’re talking to the community foundation and Sisters of St. Joseph and other places,” he said.

The group recently received $20,000 from the Sisters group. Engraved bricks for the main walkway in front of the Armory are also being sold by the group and WASCO.

Marietta is also facing a deadline for phase two. If it isn’t completed by the end of May, the city could face repaying a $321,800 federal transportation grant. Coleman said the contractor is being held to a May 30 completion date, which will allow him to submit the necessary reporting online the next day.