MONROE - With a governmental go-ahead now in its back pocket, the local group that wants to build a 792-square-foot covered pavilion across the street from the Monroe County courthouse will now turn its attention toward raising the money to pay for it.
The Monroe Arts and Beautification Fund Committee got unanimous approval from the Monroe County Board of Commissioners last week for a 22-foot by 36-foot brick gazebo to be built in Loranger Square's Heritage Park.
The group hopes to begin construction on the $169,000 project late next spring.
"It will be a place that will kind of pull that whole square together and give it a focal point," explained Debbie Haines, the chairwoman of the Monroe Arts and Beautification Fund Committee, which developed and pushed the pavilion project.
"Now that we've gotten all the final approvals, we can go out and look at all the funding sources available," Mrs. Haines said.
"There are a lot of people around Monroe who have expressed interest in being involved in one way or another. But our highest priority right now is to put the funding together."
The group - which was also responsible for the popular Brown Bear statue in front of the Dorsch branch of the Monroe County Public Library across the street - has so far raised about $31,000 toward the $169,000 project. But Mrs. Haines said she expects that number to increase substantially now that the pavilion has the approvals necessary to proceed to construction.
"There are so many different people working on this project. It's kind of like a grass-roots movement," Mrs. Haines said.
The brick gazebo will be built with a classical architecture look with large columns and wrought iron features. It will be built on the northwest corner of Washington and East First streets in what is arguably the cultural heart of Monroe.
Bill Saul, special envoy for project research with the Monroe Arts and Beautification Fund Committee, credits Mrs. Haines with keeping the pavilion project alive through more than a year of gathering different levels of approval.
"Deb has single-handedly kept this package going," Mr. Saul said. "It's the process; it's so time consuming. But I understand why people are careful, because they don't want something in there that's going to take away from the continuity of the area."
Mrs. Haines said she believes the community is excited about the pavilion project, and that it has the potential to lure people back downtown during nights and weekends.
"There have been a lot of people who have had ideas of scheduling all kinds of concerts and events there," Mrs. Haines said. "It's an exciting time to see if Monroe can bring back some of its Old-World flavor."