About 50 supporters got a chance to suggest uses for the century-old Chautauqua building if renovations are made. The building is currently closed to public use due to the withdrawal of liability insurance.
The group met Monday evening at the Lake Shelbyville Visitor Center to rally for a usage plan for the building. A plan is needed to apply for federal grant money for the work needed.
“In the past we fixed it and then waited until the next summer to use it. We cannot continue this way,” said David Young, coordinator of the Economic Development Council.
“It takes a lot of money to fix it up, but we have to have a plan to use this building,” said Wayne Gray, one of the committee members. “We need to sell the use of the building to the community.”
Shelby County Office of Tourism director Freddie Fry said that using the building will help keep funding coming in. She said the building could be used for trade shows, weddings, receptions, reunion, entertainment, expos, and even an indoor walking track.
“Usage equals revenue,” Fry said. “We need ideas for using the building.”
“Having a venue where we can have events is an opportunity for people to spend the night and their dollars in Shelbyville,” Fry said.
Monical’s owner Mark Shanks noted that business in Shelbyville booms when there are events in town and the Chautauqua building provides a place for large events.
“My biggest business this year came with MOGA geocaching event. We’re realizing out potential as a community - what it could be,” Shanks said. “We must have a plan for economic development - protecting what we have and promoting it. I believe in the Chautauqua building. I believe in 10 to 20 years from now it will be our biggest asset.”
Chamber of Commerce office manager Vonda McConnell started a FaceBook page in March to draw support for the building. The page has also raised $30,000 in pledges and has been a platform for fundraising projects.
“We have a large demographic of supporters. There are people out there who want to get involved. We even have a 100 percent donation of paint by Sherman Williams,” McConnell said. “However this is not a sprint, it is a marathon. We are looking for committed people to do the marathon with us. It would be a true embarrassment to our community to let anything happen to it.”
She also emphasized teaching the children about the history of the Chautauqua building. Some of the elementary classes have held fundraisers for the building.
“It will ultimately be their responsibility,” McConnell said.
Gray noted that the city council is in support of fixing the building although they are hesitant to donate funds toward the project.
“The City Council is behind fixing the building, but we have to have a plan to back them up,” Gray said.
Other attendees also voiced their opinions in support of the Chautauqua building, agreeing that a usage plan is needed. Attendees also completed a survey sheet with suggestions for the building’s use.
Anyone with a usage idea for the building may contact C.L. Tarantola at the Chamber of Commerce office, 774-2221.
A follow-up meeting will be held at noon Thursday, July 11, at the Roxy Theater.