Downtown Muncie is nearing the completion of its months-long construction project, adding ADA compliant sidewalks, parking spots and bike lanes, as well as opening Walnut Street to two-way traffic and improving water drainage. Downtown developers are anticipating increased patronage for businesses who lost money due to the traffic disruption. Mary Freda // DN File
Downtown construction to bring benefits to local businesses
As a months-long construction project in Muncie nears completion, downtown developers anticipate increased patronage for businesses who lost money because of the traffic disruption.
Vicki Veach, executive director of Muncie Downtown Development Partnership, which started the DWNTWN campaign, expects that the improvements will draw more customers in the long run, from both the community and the surrounding region.
"I think everybody will be pleased with what happens down here in the next few years,” she said. “We’re getting ready to kick off a new campaign, and it's going to be very interesting and fun. We'll be targeting millennials and Ball State students and people who live here. So hopefully we'll be able to make up for some of that lost business.”
Downtown merchants requested the Walnut Street construction, said Cheryl Crowder, events director of MDDP. The project aims to meet federally mandated requirements for accessibility and sewer separation. It will also include outdoor dining and entertainment areas, Crowder said, “upgrading the downtown to reflect the city's pride.”
Jayme Klisavage, an employee at Wishbone Gifts, said he doesn't feel that the current environment downtown welcomes Ball State freshmen to the area and believes the initial impression will discourage their patronage even after the construction is over.
Wishbone at least benefits from its established reputation and presence as the oldest head shop in Muncie, Klisavage said, and business has picked up since students returned to Ball State.
“Especially the sophomores, juniors, seniors – all those cats know we’re down here,” he said.
Crowder said some construction obstacles resulted from the discovery of old infrastructure pieces, like sewer and gas lines, under the streets.
“It’s been devastating,” said Toren Scott, owner of Made in Muncie Pottery. “You know, we made it through the recession, which was great. We still have our doors open, but it just seems like every time they get something fixed, they turn around and start doing something new.”
The construction frustrates small businesses, Scott said, but he hopes the end product is worth it. He doesn't know of any campaign that has helped local businesses, but Crowder said MDDP is trying to help.
"The DWNTWN campaign has and will continue to bring awareness to the downtown community through billboards, social media, radio, television and events,” Crowder said. “It is up to individual business owners to determine how to invite guests to their locations.”
Ty Morton of Tylonius Studios and Melanie Howe of Addison Avenue Marketing have offered one month of their services at no charge for any downtown merchant wanting help with marketing ideas.