Union City Submits Application for HGTV Contest

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From Press Release

Union City has thrown its hat in the ring for a contest in which a popular home-makeover television program is looking to adopt a community for a town-wide renovation.

HGTV recently announced the hosts of its “Home Town” program – Erin and Ben Napier – are looking beyond their home town of Laurel, Miss., for a community of fewer than 40,000 residents on which to bring their talents to bear for a show that will air six episodes in 2021.

Communities were invited to apply online, with only about a three-week window to the application deadline of Friday, Feb. 7. The application required a narrative explaining why the community should be selected, a video telling the community’s story, and a handful of photographs.

Faced with the tight application timetable, the Union City Community Foundation spearheaded an effort to create the video and complete the application. Public television station WQLN of Erie worked with the foundation to create the video, using footage from an earlier “Our Town” video production featuring Union City, as well as new footage, and overhead drone footage provided by Union City resident Coltin Warner and his business, Warner Productions.

That 5-minute video is now available for viewing on YouTube, Union City Borough’s Facebook page, the foundation’s Facebook page and website, and the Union City community Facebook page.

“Everything fell right into place at the right time,” said Steve Jones, chairman of the Union City Community Foundation. “Our community already had everything in place that HGTV’s Home Town Takeover contest was asking for and more. Union City is actually shovel-ready with much of the designs and preliminary work already in place. Our community is primed for a rebuild and renaissance to occur.”

HGTV’s website states that a “team of renovation pros” under the Napiers’ direction will renovate more than just residential properties, to include downtown buildings and parks.

HGTV’s website notes: “As luck would have it, in addition to home renovation, Erin and Ben have some relevant experience in the realm of whole-town transformation. They’ve not only helped rescue and enhance dozens of homes in their hometown of Laurel, Miss., they’ve also played a pivotal role in helping revitalize the city’s downtown while preserving and celebrating the town’s architectural treasures, endemic charm and historic features.

“It’s all elemental to the same overarching mission – helping to create and foster a town persona that draws on its roots, history and traditions,” the website states.

“Applicants should strive to highlight aspects of their town that make it special, fascinating, historic or unique — including distinctive features like vintage period architecture, special destinations or a classic main street,” the site continues. “Citizens of the selected town can expect to witness the rehab of multiple individual family homes as well as the revitalization of public spaces —parks, local diners or restaurants and outdoor recreation areas.”

“This is a big one,” said host Erin Napier. “HGTV has never, ever taken on a whole-town renovation and restoration project, and we’re so proud and excited to be leading the team that will get it done.”

It hasn’t been announced how many communities applied by the Feb. 7 deadline, when the winning community will be selected, or when the show will be shot. But absent details, Union City felt it was in position to apply.

The application video outlines such topics as the community’s chair-making history, National Register of Historic Places designation in the downtown and adjacent neighborhoods, recent downtown historic preservation plan, efforts to redesign the downtown’s gateway at Main and High streets – including the former Union City Dinor – a master plan initiative for the borough’s four parks, the community’s proximity to French Creek and Route 6, and more.

The video also addresses strategic planning that’s focused on making Union City a top bedroom community to the Erie metropolitan area, and how the “Home Town Takeover” initiative could propel that forward.

“We know we need to attract businesses and families to our community, yet we recognize in actuality we have become a bedroom community to those that work in Erie and surrounding areas,” said Jones. “The idea was presented as to how to get others past the front door of the community to actually see what a wonderful gem we all know we have.

“We have projects already in place such as Main Street improvements, the sidewalk replenishment program, historic preservation plans, building mural plans, park improvements, structural assessments of downtown buildings, PennDOT improvements, and many more exciting initiatives,” Jones continued. “We know the chance of Union City of being selected by HGTV is very slim, yet if we didn’t try, we would never know.

“Whether or not we get selected by HGTV, we now have an incredibly strong video message to others and the community of the progress that is being made,” he added. “We will continue to pick ourselves up and rebuild our historic city, a better community we can proudly call our home town.”