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Maser Plaza to welcome Le Mars visitors

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Construction is ongoing on the new Maser Plaza in downtown Le Mars. The new visitor center's roof line above the entry and colors are reminiscent of historical railroad depots. The historic photo depicts the Union Depot, which was built in Le Mars in the 1900s.
Maser Plaza may not exactly replicate a railroad depot that once stood in Le Mars, but it will offer a taste of that history.

Construction continues on the visitor center and decorative plaza on the south side of the former First National Bank drive-through facility on Central Avenue.

Al and Delores Maser, long-time Le Mars residents, are financing construction of the plaza and center, which will be donated to the city of Le Mars.

"The Masers wanted to pay homage to a significant portion of history the railroad has in Le Mars," said Ed Cable, the Masers' project manager.

Construction on the exterior of the center with its glass windows and peaked roof is complete, while interior work is ongoing.

Earlier this week workers began laying a tile floor inside the center, which will house Le Mars Convention and Visitor Bureau manager Jessica Lingren's office and historic displays.

Drew Feller, left, and Joe Galles, of Galles Construction, in Le Mars, lay tiles inside the new visitor center portion of the Maser Plaza Monday. Construction on the center and plaza is ahead of schedule, with a planned spring completion date.
Although not an exact replica, the visitor center's design is meant to remind people of an original railroad station layout, Cable said.

Historically, depots were largely rectangular, stand-alone structures with raised platforms built parallel to the railroad tracks, he said.

"The use of colors and the shape of the roof and a vintage type sign out front we hope will suggest to people this is part of a railroad museum," Cable said.

Another difference between the old depots and the Maser Plaza is the multiple glass windows in the new visitor center.

"Having significant glass looking on the railroad tracks and the view up and down the tracks was important to the Masers in trying to create this place," Cable said.

The exterior plaza area to the south of the center will include decorative benches and a raised old-fashioned clock to identify it as a gathering area, he said.

Construction of the center is on schedule, if not a little bit ahead, Cable said.

"We should be complete sometime this spring, but we clearly want to be in operation at the latest by Ice Cream Days," he said.

Le Mars' 2013 Ice Cream Days are set for June 12-14.

Cable expects the building will be completed in March or April and the exterior plantings done and clock placed in April or May.

The visitor center will not only include a museum of historical displays, but it will also be a place for people to learn about current offerings in Le Mars and surrounding areas, Lingren said.

"All the brochures and city information will be housed over there," she said. "There will be hours. We're still kind of working through what that will look like."

At some point volunteers may be sought to help operate the visitor center, Lingren said.

She hopes Maser Plaza will be a stopping point in addition to the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor for visitors to learn about Le Mars and what it offers.

"It will be a location where they can come and I can chat with them about other things that are going on in town," Lingren said.

Cable added that the visitor center will allow Lingren's office to be more visible.

"Many in the community probably don't even know where her office is," Cable said.

Currently, Lingren's office is housed next door to the new center in Le Mars City Hall.

The location of the visitor center and plaza with street parking on Central Avenue and the east parking lot will provide access, Cable said.

"To be able to bring a busload of people in, this will be a big enough place," he said.

Lingren added that she already has a bus trip stop scheduled in August.

"On behalf of the Masers, we want to thank the city, especially Jessica and Scott (Langel, city administrator) for their cooperation," Cable said. "Moving through the project they've been a tremendous help to the Masers and the contractors in keeping this on, or ahead, of schedule."

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