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First RCA Dome shade structure installed

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Last Friday on my way downtown I stopped at 23rd Street and Guilford where I found a newly-installed shade structure in the corner pocket park located there. The structure consists of a three-meter-high yellow pole and two shade-giving masts on top. The element that makes this structure unique is the provenance of the Teflon-coated fiberglass mast material. This stuff was part of the roof of the RCA Dome before it was demolished in December of 2008.

It's a structure that brings a certain forward-looking beauty to the economically-challenged Reagan Park neighborhood (if not a whole lot of shade).

The structure was designed by the nonprofit People for Urban Progress (PUP) in conjunction with Wil Marquez of w/purpose and fabricated by Brian McCutcheon and Randy Domeck of Indianapolis Fabrications. In order to implement this project, PUP also partnered with Tammi Golden of the Community Outreach Center (COC), which is located in a house adjacent to the shade structure. The COC strives in various ways to improve the lives of residents in the surrounding community.

PUP is the group that rescued 250 tons worth of roof material from the demolished RCA Dome and is now attempting to repurpose all of this material. Their repurposing venture started off small; they began by hand-crafting messenger bags, clutches, and wallets out of the roof material. They continue to sell these goods out of their Murphy Art Center headquarters and in partnership with various partnering retailers. By selling such items, they build their nest egg out of the proceeds to fund larger projects. Soon, they hope, there will be other shade structures--including larger, more functional structures--in parks throughout the city.

I wrote a profile of this group back in December, 2010 for NUVO. The two founding members of that organization, Michael Bricker and Maryanne O'Malley, talked about the coming implementation of this shade structure project during my interview with them. On one hand, I was glad to see it up. On the other hand, because this organization has such big dreams--one of those dreams is a more public, more fuel efficient transportation model for the city of Indianapolis--I wondered why it had taken so long to complete just this one project.

But it's awfully easy for an outside observer like me to express impatience. Small nonprofit organizations like PUP can't change the world overnight. Sometimes it's a miracle if such an organization can do even a fraction of what they set out to do. And as PUP produces more and more of their shade structures--in partnerships with other organizations--their efficiency should increase. (Think economies of scale.) So keep it up, PUP!

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