Spencer Pride commUnity center Celebrates Grand Opening in Historic I.O.R.M. Building

The Unity Shop is the retail space with the commUnity center. It features items made by local artists. There is also a wide variety of vintage resale items for sale.

Spencer Pride president Jonathan Balash and the volunteers of Spencer Pride, Inc., are proud to announce the opening of their new commUnity center, now located at 17 E. Franklin Street in Spencer.  The center is located in the historic Improved Order of the Red Men (IORM) Lodge Building, which was originally constructed in 1898.

“We were elated to have been able to purchase such a prominent downtown building”, said Balash.  “We now have more than 9,000 square feet of space to mold into our biggest dreams for our organization.”

A group of volunteers pose for a quick photo during the moving day on January 28, 2018

“A majority of the demolition and relocation of the retail space was accomplished by our wonderful volunteers,” said Judi Epp, Spencer Pride’s Treasurer.

During 2017, Spencer Pride volunteers logged 6,531 hours throughout the various programs run by the organization, including the commUnity center.  In January of 2018, volunteers donated 1,114 hours, primarily involving their work on the new building.    Volunteers worked to preserve the historic features of the building, while making necessary changes to transform the building into a functioning space for the community.  Volunteer work days were scheduled throughout the last couple of months of 2017. The final moving date from the former location Market Street took place on January 28th, 2018.

Numerous local contractors were also engaged in the work at the new facility.  This was coordinated by Spencer Pride Director & Retail Manager, Jacob Balash.   Work will continue on other areas of the building.  Phase I, which mostly included the transition of existing operations, is now complete.

More Spencer Pride volunteers pose for a photo during the January 28 moving day.

In addition to the onsite work at the facility, the Spencer Pride Board of Directors has been working with Springpoint Architects out of Bloomington, Indiana, to conduct a feasibility study on the structure.  This study will be used to guide the organization in developing the building.  The feasibility study is expected to conclude within the next two weeks.

Phase II, which includes restorative exterior work on the building façade including replacement of all windows & doors,  will be completed during 2018.  A new interior stairwell will also be included within the rear of the center.  During demolition work at the site, a historic stairwell was uncovered.  In order to meet new code requirements, architects aided in designing a new staircase for the space.

Phase III, which includes the restoration of the 2nd story & the development of 3 apartments above the retail and meeting space is slated for 2019. There are 5 phases in total planned for the Spencer Pride commUnity center project.

The commUnity center is now formally finished with Phase I, although many details throughout the space are still being finalized.

The new building solidifies the presence of Spencer Pride in the community.  The organization has been active in Owen County since its establishment more than a decade ago.  Over the course of that time, the organization has evolved in many ways.  The opening of the commUnity center was a major milestone when it originally opened in September of 2016 in a rented space on the south side of the courthouse square.  After their volunteer base doubled and support for the retail store was apparent, plans were assembled to purchase a building downtown that would better serve the organization’s long-term needs.

Volunteers stopped for a moment during the moving day on January 28, 2018.

The new space will be utilized for multiple purposes.  It includes an expanded retail space.  Unity, the retail shop of Spencer Pride, will continue to feature unique items created by local artisans as well as an assortment of vintage resale merchandise.  The center now also includes an informal Gathering Place for community members to come to relax, read a book, work on projects, and more.  The new location also has a meeting room that is now available for free to other local not-for-profit, LGBTQ+ affirming organizations.  Amenities such as two ADA-compliant public restrooms with changing tables are also now available to the public, as well as free Wi-Fi.  Eventually additional services will be offered as the center evolves.

Spencer Pride organizers thank the many individuals who volunteered to make this dream a reality as well as the individuals and organizations who have made donations to help the project.  Spencer Pride has established a foundation and a capital campaign at the Owen County Community Foundation where the funds are being managed.

For more information about Spencer Pride visit www.SpencerPride.org or stop in to the commUnity center Wednesday through Saturday from 10 AM until 7 PM.  Jonathan Balash can be reached via e-mail at Jonathan@SpencerPride.org.