Phew, it’s been awhile since I posted anything on this blog. The State is abuzz with activity and while I’ve had a number of posts in my head, I’ve lacked the time to get them down on (virtual) paper. I had to make time for this one because I’m very excited!
When you’re at The State as much as I am, you can’t help but notice and meet the folks over at the Robertson’s Senior Apartment complex across the street. Robertson’s long held a special place in people’s hearts as THE place to shop downtown with its multiple floors of shopping and iconic tea room on the top floor (where is our tea room now entrepreneurs?). Historic photos show how the building evolved alongside the city, beginning with a classical facade and large windows then ending with a very 70s look with no windows. Following years of struggle, it was eventually vacated due to vastly different downtown economics. Though vacant for some time, creative individuals were able to reenvision it as a thriving space again, only this time as housing. Hailed as a triumph of adaptive reuse, South Bend Heritage was able to take advantage of various tax credits to repurpose the building for mostly senior living.
As the downtown has revitalized, however, something that was once hailed as a triumph is often dismissed as a misuse of a valuable downtown property. People often think of Robertson’s as being full of handicap and impoverished individuals that can’t contribute to the revitalization of downtown. I myself was drawn into this way of thinking until I got to know some of the folks through conversation as well as through our Story Corps project. I found, not surprsingly in retrospect, that the residents are great people with rich personalities. Contrary to perception, many of the residents have jobs and live a life much like mine. As for the residents that I see hanging around outside, the truth is they simply aren’t being given the opportunities to contribute so they spend their days hanging around outside the building. Now that I’ve opened my eyes, I’m looking for ways to get them more actively involved in the downtown and I figure the easiest way for me to do that is through The State.
I’ve felt for awhile now that the residents of Robertson’s have been defenders of The State, keeping an eye on the place, letting me know when they see anything suspicious and even offering to help out. So it seems to me that The State should be reciprocating as a friend and defender of Robertson’s. One of the most active residents is Anita DeMunck, the mother of one of The State’s biggest supporters, Pat Gragg. Anita recently moved back here and, at the young age of 75, wants to be actively involved in the community and start her own business!
She and I have been working together to identify opportunities for her to get involved downtown. A skill that came up was party planning and one of the opportunities we identified was how to get more affordable entertainment in the downtown for her age group. Considering how close The State was to the Robertson’s building we hit on the idea of hosting a classic movie day at The State. The plan is simple: pick low cost, classic movies to keep ticket costs down and let the folks at Robertson’s help by staffing the theater as cashiers, ticket takers and ushers. As we fleshed out the details we saw a fun opportunity to include other area senior residence complexes, such as Karl King Tower and Trinity, into the mix. We approached Bill Weeks of South Bend Heritage who loved the idea and agreed to underwrite the cost of the film as the start of what I hope becomes a strong partnership. Thus Classic Movie Afternoons was born!
Our goal for the afternoons is to make them a once a month opportunity, showing a classic movie on the 2nd Tuesday of the month at 1 pm and actively involving area retirment communities. Everyone is free to join (playing hookie is encouraged) but we definitely wanted to focus on these groups and their experience. Our first showing is a true classic, Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock. For this first movie we’ve cooked up a special, surprise ending you won’t want to miss!
We have big hopes that the Classic Movie program will become yet another new South Bend tradition started at The State. Just one more way we’re trying to turn this “Pride of South Bend” into a community hub for ALL of South Bend’s residents.
Want to help make this new initiative a big success? Please pass on the information to your friends and family. You can even share this link to the Facebook Event on your page. See you at 1 pm on Tuesday