Deadline to use $252,397 armory grant is 9/30/15

The city of Marietta has more than two years to make use of a $252,397 Ohio Department of Transportation National Scenic Byways grant for the Armory Square project, according to city development director Andy Coleman.

“We just received a letter from ODOT that the deadline to use the National Scenic Byways grant has been extended to Sept. 30, 2015. That’s the final date that all of those grant funds will end,” Coleman told members of council’s lands, buildings and parks committee Wednesday.

He added that during the two-year period the city will have to submit quarterly reports about progress on the armory renovation project to ODOT, with the first report due in October of this year.

One requirement for use of the grant money is that the building be occupied before the grant deadline expires, and ODOT has granted several extensions of the funding deadline as work on the facility has slowly progressed toward that end.

“We’re excited to know we’ll have the grant funding available for two more years,” said Jane Tumas-Serna, vice president of the nonprofit Armory Square Inc. group that has been pushing to complete the renovation project and open the building to the public.

But Tumas-Serna noted that the next two years will pass quickly, so momentum toward gaining occupancy of the armory building should continue.

She also submitted a draft business plan for Armory Square once the third phase of the project is completed, which will allow partial renovation and occupancy of the building’s first floor area.

The plan, to operate the facility as a transportation hub and community and tourist information center, is basically the same as a plan previously developed in February 2012, Tumas-Serna said. She added that Pamela Lankford with the local Small Business Development Center had helped refine the 2012 document into the draft copy that Tumas-Serna distributed to the council committee members on Wednesday.

“The big change from the previous plan is that Armory Square Inc. is now a 501c3 organization,” Tumas-Serna said. “That allows us to have more grant opportunities than just government grants, and we have already applied for some additional grant funding.”

She noted the Armory Square group had already contributed a total of nearly $100,000 toward the project-much of that funding raised through the sale of bricks for the veterans memorial walkway and another brick walk that will be installed in front of the armory building.

“All of the revenue our group realizes from those sales goes directly to the project,” Tumas-Serna said, adding that Armory Square Inc receives $32 from each $50 brick sold. The rest of the brick price supports materials and engraving that’s done by Wasco Inc. clients.

She said the group would like to see the third phase of the project completed by next summer which would include occupancy and opening of the first floor of the armory building with restrooms, a bus ticket office and waiting room, and some vendor space.

City engineer Joe Tucker noted the second phase of the armory project, completed at the end of last month, included the complete abatement of all asbestos and total encapsulation of any lead paint throughout the nearly 100-year-old building.

Safety-service director Jonathan Hupp said the building would now be safe for volunteers who may want to help with the third phase work.

In other business Wednesday, members of the lands, buildings and parks and finance committees agreed to move ahead with legislation authorizing Pickering Associates to proceed with development of final design plans for the renovation of the city hall building at 301 Putnam St. at a total design cost of $119,800.

Construction of the project is scheduled to begin by Dec. 27, Tucker said, adding that some city hall offices will have to be relocated during the renovation project, including the police dispatch office which will likely be temporarily moved to the community building at Lookout Park.

“We will be working with Pickering to establish the exact sequencing of the project,” Tucker said. “But the renovation will probably begin on the second floor of city hall as that area is mostly empty.”

Much of the second floor had been previously occupied by the municipal court until those offices were relocated to newly-renovated facilities on the corner of Third and Butler streets last year.