By Brent Cotter
Union City Now
On Saturday October 15th, national news media had it's attention set on the Occupy (insert city here) protests going on across the country. That same day, a group of Union City residents representing URUC's Future descended upon the downtown area (no protest signs in sight), rolled up their sleeves and got to work cleaning windows, pulling weeds, and completing cosmetic improvments to one of the buildings.
Though everything seemed peaceful, orderly, and productive, we weren't going to take any chances and decided to get to the bottom of it. It turns out that Chad Spence was the ringleader of this event. When asked for comment, he had plenty to say.
UCNow- What is URUC’s Future and what is its mission?
CS- URUC’s Future is a non-profit organization dedicated to the restoration of the downtown area of Union City through the volunteer efforts of the community. The grand vision is not only restoring the downtown buildings but also creating an atmosphere conducive to great commerce. This grand vision stemmed from drawings that were performed a few years ago by the architectural department at Ball State University, which very clearly demonstrated the absolute beauty and sheer elegance that our downtown could possess which would pay homage to the original designs by its architects. URUC’s Future is not a replacement for the Preservation Society or the Downtown Redevelopment Group, but merely additional assistance to augment their efforts. We are seeking to galvanize the desire of citizens who want a thriving downtown by utilizing the very skill sets that so many possess – carpentry, painting, landscaping, janitorial, etc, etc – to make our vision a reality.
Who is involved in URUC’s Future?
Ted Leahey and Allan Jefferis were instrumental in the formation of the group. Tim Heuss, Ron Holt, Greg Harshman, Jim Hufford, Bryan Conklin, and Monte Poling have been the key components in the restoration work, along with contributions from various citizens and businesses, such as Montano Lumber and Didier Hardware. Wendy and Brittany Smith have helped spearhead downtown cleanup efforts with the assistance of numerous community members. Philip Brewer has been critical in helping URUC’s Future establish an identity and in promoting its vision going forward.
What progress has URUC’s Future made?
Thus far we have completed half of the building that houses “My Favorite Flowers” and “The Christian Bookstore.” Its completion is slated for this autumn, as Montano Lumber has completed the two remaining windows (constructing them by hand) and installation is to occur sometime before December. There is hope that we will be able to address the bottom portion of the building in the spring, with the idea of restoring it to its original brilliance without sacrificing key signage for the businesses themselves.
The building which contains “Fast Eddie’s” is between a quarter and one-third completed, with the upper façade on the Oak Street side nearly finished (windows uncovered, glazed, caulked, painted, with glass replacement in some instances). The upper portion on the Columbia Street side will be completed in the spring of 2012. If a design can be conceived that will meet both historical standards and energy efficiency for the bottom half of the structure, then we will strive to complete the entire building by the end of autumn of 2012.
The structure which formerly contained “Hub City Finance” has been completed, with the upper windows uncovered and caulked, and all windows being scraped and painted, giving a nice, fresh look to a very solid and uniquely designed building.
One of the landmarks of the downtown, “The Sweet Shoppe,” has had the metal siding stripped. The two-by-four’s attached to the building are to be removed by late October/early November, and CAPCO (who completed the masonry work on the City Museum) is slated to perform the brick restoration this fall. If enough funds can be raised by next spring, then window installation will take place at that time (five new windows). The top and corner façade will then have a target completion for the fall, 2012.
Paint has already been donated for the former Apothecary Shop, but the building currently has a potential buyer, who has requested a delay in painting due to the bid/buying process. The potential owner has design ideas in store for the building, including removal of the metal façade, and a goal of restoring the building to historical semblance. If the acquisition does not take place, then we will resume our efforts to paint the structure initially, and then address the bottom portion in time.
Labor has been committed by Tom Kerns (of Kerns Bros, Inc) to uncover and restore the windows of “The Steps” building, with a date to be determined.
The entrance area of Jo’s Corner Florist has been repainted, and the windows are slated to be refinished in the spring of 2012.
What future goals does URUC’s Future have?
To complete the projects as detailed above, and to weave other buildings into the mix until the grand vision is achieved. As this process continues, URUC’s Future wants it to be known to potential businesses that we, as a community, are clearly united in supporting our city and growing our downtown, and we will absolutely not stop until our vision is complete.
How can people become involved in URUC’s Future?
We will be having a Downtown Makeover Day next spring (tentative date of May 19th/20th), and we would like to have every living, breathing soul in Union City to participate. There is something for EVERYONE to do, and our title is URUC’s Future for a reason, because YOU, the citizen, represent the future of the city. What you do (or don’t do) will have an impact on our community for tomorrow and into the future. The impact may be small or it may be tremendous, and your impact may be positive (by doing something no matter how significant) or it may be negative (by doing nothing), but make no mistake, YOU will have an impact.
We are also seeking financial donations, with no offering being too little or too great. It’s amazing how everybody in the community could give just $1.00 (yes, just 100 pennies), and in doing so we would be able to replace all the windows of the Sweet Shoppe and complete the upper trim work (where stone blocks can be seen).
What events have URUC’s Future had and are there any future events planned?
As previously mentioned, we are striving for a Downtown Makeover Day next May, where we will continue façade work on the buildings as well as clean windows, sweep, pull weeds, and pick up trash along sidewalks, curbs, and streets. This comes on the heels of our first ever Downtown Makeover Day, held in June of 2011. We also held a downscaled workday on October 15, where more façade work was completed and cleanup was conducted on Columbia Street.
Does URUC’s Future have a website or a facebook page?
Yes, you can like us on facebook. We do not yet have a true dedicated website but would certainly like to have one to further promote our efforts. Ideally, we would have a website that individuals could log onto and donate to our efforts online. There are numerous Union City and Mississinawa Valley graduates across the country who would probably like to support our efforts for their hometown.
Do you have any other information about URUC’s Future that you would like to tell our readers?
It is my humble opinion that we live in a day and age where we have become too reliant upon government entities to fix our problems. This country is great not because governments rose up and tackled issues at hand, but yet because people gave up their hammers and pitchforks and took to the fields to fight for our freedom . . . It’s great because men and women have constantly sought a better way to do things, and hence we have inventions today that were merely dreams decades ago. . . It’s great because this country started with God at its foundation, and our forefathers knew that with Him, all things are possible, and it’s this belief that has become inherent in all of us. It’s whether we choose to tap into this belief that will determine where we go from here. When I think of our community, I am absolutely amazed at all the ability that lies within. We have a plethora of very skilled laborers who have significantly contributed to the auto industry in this country. We have a multitude of extremely talented carpenters and painters who could construct virtually anything imaginable from the ground up, and then still have the insight on how to further improve it. And it absolutely does not stop there . . . no matter young or old, male or female, short or tall, no matter the ethnicity or any other attribute, EVERY individual in this city has something invaluable to offer in our efforts to improve our community and make a better tomorrow for everyone. Just envision everybody jumping into the effort, both schools, all the churches, the businesses, retired individuals, the working class, everyone . . . each and every person that calls Union City home. Achieving this would not only transform our city into something that would command the attention of towns, cities, and counties for miles, but it would also change our community forever. It would become a milestone in the history of this community that would illustrate what is still very much possible within the depths of every soul, and it would send a message to our children that anything is still possible, indeed.
Why the downtown?
One of the most successful businesses in the country, Walt Disney World, operates on the mantra that this day may be the one day that a family has been planning for all their life, and that Disney has one chance, one shot, at making it a memory for a lifetime. As a community competing in a fiercely competitive environment, we may oftentimes find ourselves with one chance, one shot at making our best impression possible upon a prospective business owner or homeowner. Because of this, it is imperative that we put our best foot forward. We can ill-afford to lose an opportunity to land a new business or a new citizen because we did not do everything in our power to appeal to them. We are raised to not judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to the financial world, that is how the majority operates. People frequently judge by appearance when it comes to deciding what clothing to buy, which vehicle to drive, what restaurant to go to, what hotel to stay in, which home to rent or buy, etc, etc, etc. It's our job as a community to market itself in the best fashion possible so we draw more jobs, more citizens, create a larger tax base (which in turn enables more projects to be done in the community and lightens the burden on current citizens), and on and on.