MY VOICE: Improving Spencer’s Downtown (by Jacob Balash)

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The crowd who came out to the recent roll-out event was more than 100 people!

On Monday, April 27th Spencer Main Street, in partnership with Spencer Town Council and Owen County Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Corporation, held an event to showcase two projects aimed at community revitalization.  These projects were presented by Strategic Development Group and Indiana University’s School of Public & Environmental Affairs.

I was involved in this event because I serve on the board of Spencer Main Street, which helped plan the event. It was held at the Christian Life Center on Montgomery Street just a block from the Owen County Courthouse in downtown Spencer.  I also helped to set-up and clean-up for it.

I was astounded with the public turn-out, which I had expected to be around 30 people.  Instead, more than 110 people came out!  I couldn’t be more pleased with this.

The event was intended help engage the public in the community revitalization efforts.  We don’t want people to think that we are doing this to ‘their’ town; we are doing this to ‘our’ town.  We were able to present information to the public about the ideas for communitity improvements and people were able to ask questions and learn more about those ideas.  They were also able to express their views on some of the proposals and share new ideas with us.

I became involved in Spencer Main Street after finding out about the organization from Dana Beth Evans, Director of the historic Tivoli Theatre.  Dana Beth is a member of the board and encouraged me to join as well.  I wasn’t sure at first if I would have the time to do it given my responsibilities as full-time stay-at-home-dad.  I wanted to join in and have a positive impact on our community, though, and I also knew that my husband Jonathan (president of Spencer Pride Inc.) would be excited about the opportunity for me to join the board of Spencer Main Street.

Thankfully, I was able to figure out how to balance my time between father, husband, Spencer Pride Inc. volunteer, and member of the board of Spencer Main Street (for the most part, lol).  I made it work because I hope that Spencer Main Street can inspire people in our community to invest in downtown Spencer and to revitalize the historic buildings that are there.  I really love Spencer and want to do what I can to help.

I encourage everyone to be involved with Spencer Main Street.  There are many ways to do so!  First of all, people should like us on Facebook so that they can be aware of upcoming volunteer opportunities.  Besides volunteering, individuals can bring a business downtown, buy a downtown building, or join Spencer Main Street.

We have three committees on Spencer Main Street.   First of all there is the design committee.  This is the committee that I am on.  We work on the streetscapes of downtown Spencer and other beautification efforts.  The second committee is economic development, which focuses on bringing businesses downtown and helping existing downtown businesses to flourish.  They are also learning from local businesses about what they need in Spencer in order to get and retain employees and make Spencer a greater value for businesses.  The third committee is promotions.  The promotions committee promotes the Main Street Association and Spencer as a whole.

I’ve learned a lot since I became involved in Spencer Main Street. I didn’t realize how few opportunities there are to rent homes in Spencer.  This discourages young families from living within our community.  I was also surprised at the overall expense involved with undergoing these important efforts.  Yet I’ve also learned about the potential resources that exist to invest financially in our community.  I’ve also been impressed with the ideas generated by the engineers and designers and how much thought they are putting into the efforts.  For example, they are looking holistically at everything going on downtown (such as the road work on US 46, sidewalk repairs, additional lighting desired, etc.) to see how efficient they can do this work while minimizing the temporary negative impacts related to construction.

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Jacob is a frequent volunteer at Spencer Pride’s monthly night working at the Tivoli Theatre. Shown here (from the left) is Cathy Wyatt, Eric Jones, Larissa Jones, Dan Wyatt, Jacob Balash, Katie Zuber, Dana Beth Evans, and Katie’s mom.

In the future there will be more public events focused on the specific topics of the revitalization effort.  There will also be volunteer opportunities to help clean up our community and make the planned improvements.  I encourage anyone who wants to make Spencer a better place to become involved in these events.  They can also call or text me at 812-821-1442 to find out more information.

This post comes straight to you from Jacob Balash.  Jacob, his husband Jonathan, & his son Truman live in Owen County with their three basset hounds. This post is part of a new series entitled “Voices of Spencer Pride” where we share perspectives from our volunteers about topics that they find important. We hope that you find this post meaningful to you and if you think someone else would also find value in it, we encourage you to share it with them as well. THANK YOU!