Marathon Vice Mayor Chris Bull has been putting the finishing touches on a initative to improve the city’s “main street” look.
“The city has been focused on infrastructure like stormwater and wastewater infrastructure, and rightfully so,” Bull said. “But the time has come to invest in our ‘living brochure’ — our U.S.1 corridor.”
Dubbed the Marathon Proud Initiative, Bull’s plan details a variety of improvements and plans to make them happen. The beginning steps have already started such as improving the landscaping in the median and pricing out more attractive street lamps.
The main gist of Bull’s plan, however, is to create some private-public partnerships encouraging businesses to spruce up street presence. He proposes:
• Façade beautification grants much like what the Marathon Chamber of Commerce does now, but on a bigger scale. Businesses could apply for the grants that would also require them to invest in the project.
• Bull proposes a “free permit month” where application fees would be waived so businesses could save that cost when performing façade renovations. He said this could be done during a slow summer month.
• He would also like to research grants that would allow businesses, especially on the west end of town, to neaten up parking lots and possibly add pervious pavers to tackle flooding.
Bull said he’s already exploring funding ideas. And he wants to look into using some stormwater and street maintenance funds to pay for the pervious pavers. It’s possible, Bull said, developers might want to contribute as well as any improvements could help the tourism industry. Finally, he said, the city has had good success in securing grants.
“Between Community Services’ Debbie London and Nancy Nuner, they’ve been doing a good job identifying sources for different projects for our city,” Bull said.
Bull has shared the plan with the Marathon Chamber of Commerce.
“We also like that the city is interested in partnering with the chamber, a.k.a. the business community,” said Marathon Chamber of Commerce CEO Daniel Samess. “Businesses primarily make up our Marathon corridor and are excited to get our hands into such a program that affects and involves them. The aspect of the plan that we like best is the façade grants. Working with the city, the chamber could potentially grow and expand this program to have an even greater, more impactful outcome.”
Josh Mothner, a member of the city’s Community Image Advisory Board, said any plan to improve Marathon’s look is a good one.
“I like the idea of incentivizing the private sector. And if it’s local government that is doing the incentivizing, that’s a great partnership,” Mothner said.
Perhaps the stickiest part of Bull’s plan, however, is reviewing the sign ordinance. Typically, this raises hackles among business owners and residents alike. He said he wants public input on what the sign laws should be and then consistent enforcement.
“I think it’s long overdue for a review. After it’s been updated, then we need to enforce it,” Bull said.
Bull envisions signs and stickers and awards to cement the beautification of Marathon and involve residents.
“This is ultimately a community project,” he said. “We are all proud of our community, so this is tapping into that and giving everyone something to rally around.”