Masons seeks possible help from TIF fund for paving

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Improving alleyways in downtown is a priority for the city. Getting that done might be more challenging.

The Masonic Lodge on Nucleus Avenue is a landmark building, with its murals depicting the early history of the area an attraction unto itself.

The lodge would like to pave its parking lot and allow folks to use it when it’s not having meetings, lodge master Rick Huston told city council last week.

The hope was to tie in paving with work that’s being done at the new condominiums being built just to the west.

The paving would have cost about $3,000 initially, but then the lodge learned it would have to put in dry wells and other drainage.

The cost ballooned to $8,000, and the lodge can’t afford that, Huston said.

As the city looks to spend tax increment financing funds, Huston suggested to city council that perhaps some of the money could be used to help with paving. He made the case that the lodge is a public building — it has a kitchen that folks can rent out and with the murals, is an asset to downtown.

The lodge also allows for public parking when it’s not having a meeting, which is only a few times a month in the evenings.

Mayor Don Barnhart suggested the city could meet the lodge halfway, and perhaps use TIF funds to pay for drainage, while the lodge paid for the paving.

The council took no official action on the suggestion, but it appears the city will try to move in that direction not just with the lodge, but with other businesses on Nucleus in that same strip.

The alley behind the strip is all gravel and full of big potholes. One of the city’s goals is to improve the alleys in downtown, Barnhart noted.

A TIF district takes the additional tax revenue that are received after the district was created and uses them for improvements in the district, in accordance with the city’s urban renewal plan.

The city does have several projects on tap for the initial round of the roughly $315,000 it has accumulated since the district was created. The city will install new wayfinding signs later this year and will also look to improve the intersections on Sixth Street and Nucleus and the north half of Seventh Street and Nucleus with “bulb out” intersections to make them more pedestrian friendly.

In addition, the city will extend the existing sidewalk on the south side of Sixth Street to the east.

But even after that work is completed, there still will be about $87,600 left, which could be used to improve, at least in part, the alleys behind the Nucleus Avenue strip.

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