Initial success in MKT work fuels restoration

The project, which includes replacing tiles, is set to cost $95,000.
Thursday, October 20, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:55 a.m. CDT, Friday, June 27, 2008

Restoration of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is under way in earnest after repairs on a section of the monument weathered the seasons.

Initial repairs completed near this time last year involved replacement of blue ceramic tiles with shorter tiles placed at a slope. A new drainage system will also help.

Marie Hunter of the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs said the repairs have been monitored and found to have held up to the elements. “We feel like the test section has been successful,” she said.

The memorial, located at the Stadium Boulevard entrance to the MKT Nature/Fitness Trail, suffered severe rain and groundwater damage to its tiles after completion in 1993, originally costing $130,000. It has been under a face-lift for about a year and a half.

The city Office of Cultural Affairs and the Parks and Recreation Department are working closely with contractor Russell-Marti Conservation Services, whose expertise is outdoor art, on repairs that total $95,000.

Funding includes a $98,768 Save America’s Treasure grant from the National Park Service that will also go toward an interpretive shelter, handicapped parking spaces and walkway and interpretive signs.

In 2003, a citizens committee raised more than $83,000, and the New Century Fund, a corporation that solicits contributions for the betterment of the city, contributed $37,000. The City Council on Nov. 7 is set to approve an additional $26,130 from the New Century Fund and authorize the contract for the remaining repairs.

“I’m really proud of the progress,” said Susan Gray, a New Century Fund Board of Directors member. “I think it’s going to be wonderful.”

Although the project is entering its second and final phase, Hunter said there is a lot of work left to be done.

“It may look like a slow rate, but it’s a careful process,” said Gray.

Russell-Marti and its subcontractors have been working on phase two for about a month in order to finish parts that are sensitive to freezing weather.

On Wednesday, bright blue tiles stood out next to the old, damaged ones as a single worker did masonry work on the structure.

“It’s a great project, and I hope it ends up successful,” Hunter said.

A rededication, following completion of the project, is expected to be sometime next year.

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