Today, downtown Spencer was blossoming with people attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the brand-new public restrooms. The non-gendered restroom facility is located across from the Owen County Chamber of Commerce on Main Street, around the corner from Juniper Art Gallery.
The restrooms are the culmination of more than a year of work on behalf of the Owen County Chamber of Commerce, who coordinated this community-wide effort.
Since the latest “revitalization” of downtown Spencer began many years ago, there has been a need for easy-to-access public restrooms for individuals attending community events & shopping downtown. The Spencer Pride commUnity center does have public restrooms available, however, these alone would not provide enough capacity to support major events like our annual festival. Up until 2019, the additional capacity came through the use of the public restrooms in the taxpayer-funded Owen County Courthouse, which organizations like Spencer Pride had been paying to utilize for many years.
The availability of the courthouse restrooms changed in fall of 2019 when the Owen County Commissioners launched an assault on Spencer’s downtown events, including the Spencer Pride Festival. The Commissioners proposed sweeping & draconian changes to the county’s Special Events Ordinance. The changes significantly restricted the use of the courthouse property & its restrooms for (most) special events downtown. Amidst an outpouring of opposition from local citizens & business owners, the Special Events Ordinance was still pushed through & passed by the Owen County Commissioners during a winter snowstorm that December. The commissioners’ changes to the Special Events Ordinance brought significant negative attention to Owen County government.
With the Owen County Courthouse restrooms no longer being an option for downtown events like the Spencer Pride Festival, it was clear that the community would need to create what the Owen County Commissioners had taken away. The Owen County Chamber of Commerce led the charge. In June of 2020, thanks to donations by local citizens & an Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority grant, the restroom campaign goal was met. Less than one year later & the restrooms were officially opened to the public today. Spencer Pride & its volunteers collectively donated thousands of dollars in support of the project.
The new facility includes three non-gendered restrooms & a mural by local artist Israel Hogan (son of Josh & Brianne Hogan, owners of Main Street Coffee). To ensure safety & security, the restroom locks are automated & there is a camera system in the vicinity to monitor the building.
These restrooms tell the story of a community that can not only come together, but can work together, to accomplish good things. We are proud of what this project represents for the support of our downtown & its events. We encourage you to stop by downtown Spencer soon to visit our shops (including the Spencer Pride commUnity center), eat at our restaurants, & yes, check out the new public restrooms. The new restrooms will be available to all attendees of this year’s Spencer Pride Festival, which will take place on Saturday, October 16.
For WTIU’s coverage of today’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, visit here.
For more information about the 2021 Spencer Pride Festival, visit our dedicated webpage.