The city of Muncie uses surface water from the White River and groundwater from the Prairie Creek Reservoir for its supply. The water from the White River exceeds the state and federal regulations, but is known for being trash-ridden. The Muncie area community has sponsored a cleanup for the White River for nine years in a row now. DN FILE PHOTO EMMA ROGERS
Urban development along White River to create connectivity in Muncie
A $48-million project is now in the works for new development along White River near downtown Muncie that Mayor Dennis Tyler said will benefit both the city and Ball State students.
With both new commercial and residential properties planned for the new Canal District, Tyler said it should attract new residents, create jobs, promote an urban style of living and help bring all of Muncie together.
"Connectivity – it's what people want," Tyler said. "A way to walk, take public transportation, to bike, nice simple paths."
The new Canal District will include:
- River Loop and pedestrian bridge
- A 60-unit, 4 floor urban living waterfront apartment with a commercial first floor restaurants
- A separate free-standing restaurant
- A 56-unit apartment with collaboration spaces and meeting rooms
- Waterfront restaurant/café
- A 2 - 3 story mixed use building
- Multiple parking locations
Tyler said he focused on creating Muncie’s first bicycle lanes when he took office in 2012, and the idea for new riverfront development began shortly after that same year.
The project will have three phases, each adding additional sets of property to the district.
While construction is tentatively planned to start late 2016, Tyler said input from developers and funds for the project could push its start back into 2017.
Scott Truex, an associate professor in the urban planning department, said he's very excited for the new development coming to Muncie. He said it will add a new energy to the downtown area and offer opportunities for connecting with the university.
"The project is really exciting as what it can do to continue the development of the downtown," Truex said. "The buildings along there don't really pay attention to the river."
But Truex thinks the biggest benefit will be to recent BSU graduates and faculty members.
"The idea of housing downtown, your own studio, place to start up your business … [people] will come here for a more urban experience," he said. "They will see this as a real advantage as to why they would want to come and work in Muncie."
Tim Maloney, senior policy director for the Hoosier Environmental Council, said he also sees the benefit of what this could do for the city of Muncie. He said he has seen other Indiana communities do similar projects.
"Communities are doing this very successfully and improving their quality of life," Maloney said. "This really is a growing trend in terms of downtown redevelopment."
Maloney said he is confident that Mayor Tyler and the city of Muncie will continue to work towards a cleaner White River as the development begins, and will protect the natural character of the river throughout the project.
Tyler said the funds for the project should come from both the public and private sectors, but said businesses should want to invest to be a part of this project, which he believes should eventually generate more than $200 million for the city.
While he said this project can't happen overnight, Tyler said he's ready to get it started.
"Projects like these are dreams and visions, but we have to find ways to invest in these types of projects for us to be successful."