A struggling Muncie neighborhood has been given a grant to help revitalize with the help of Ball State students.

Lowe’s awarded a $250,000 grant to South Central and Thomas Park/Avondale areas of Muncie for neighborhood revitalization. BSU students are using a part of the grant to help improve the community near the Maring-Hunt library.

“The grant is impactful for the community because first and foremost it addresses specific needs,” said Pam Harwood, a professor of architecture and collaborator with Maring-Hunt Library. “The need for places for the community to come and gather and be social. It provides opportunity to make [the community] proud and identify with their neighborhood.”

Maring-Hunt Public Library, Ross Community Center, Boys & Girls Club, Habitat for Humanity and Muncie Mission all applied for grants from Lowes for the 8Twelve coalition. 

The 8Twelve Coalition is a group striving to revitalize the area of Muncie bordered by Eighth and 12th streets — thus the name 8Twelve Coalition.

“All five applied for this grant for this neighborhood and we are the only state recipient of this grant,” Harwood said. 

The 8-12 Coalition Neighborhood Revitalization Plan said it will fund several initiatives through the five groups that applied:

  • Maring-Hunt Library received $50,000 to build a series of three pavilions.  A market pavilion, a community-garden stand and an outdoor kitchen with a food preparation and demonstration area, said Akilah Nosakhere, director of the Muncie Public Library. 
  • Boys & Girls Club of Muncie received $55,000 to add improvements to the appearance, safety and activity in the areas. 
  • Muncie Mission will rehabilitate a home on South Liberty Street as a part of their transitional housing program, Harwood said.
  • Ross Community Center received $75,000 to add a serenity garden and playground upgrades, Harwood said. 
  • Muncie Habitat for Humanity received $50,000 to repair 10 homes and build a new home on Memorial Drive. 

Twenty-three percent of the neighborhood within South Central and Thomas Park/Avondale areas have vacant housing units. The median income is less than $20,000 and the average house value is $40,000,  according to several censuses by United States Census Bureau

Despite this, Harwood said the community is tightly knit.

“It is a very strong neighborhood,” Harwood said. “Families care about each other. There are a lot of people in this area that really care about this place.”

Harwood is collaborating with Maring-Hunt Library through an immersive learning project to design the pavilions for the community.

Nosakhere, director of the Muncie Public Library, said that students presented several designs to the community to select the ones they liked the most. Students took the chosen designs and used elements from all of them to make the best possible design for the library.

“We’re hoping that the pavilion will be a focal point of the community. To enable the community to come outdoors, to enjoy the natural surroundings in this area,” Nosakhere said. “To be able to grow their own vegetables and supplement their diet and that of their neighbors.”

Emma Ocken, senior architecture major, worked this semester with the immersive learning project to help design the market pavilion.

“We’ve worked with the community a lot. You can see the excitement they have for this project,” Ocken said. “We have community build days where they come out and help build the pavilion.”

The market pavilion will help educate the community on various foods and fresh produce, which Harwood said will also help address food insecurity in the area as it is a USDA food desert. According to American Nutrition Association, a USDA food desert lacks fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthful whole foods. 

Ocken said while the work with the immersive learning project is detailed, it is a “fun” project that the group can work on with Lowe’s.

“I think it’s awesome what the Lowe’s grant is doing, especially working with students,” said Ocken. “It furthers us in our education as well as the community in providing these projects.”

The Lowe’s grant projects, Nosakhere said, are slated to be complete on Dec. 1. 

Contact Andrew Harp with comments at adharp@bsu.edu. Contact Liz Rieth with comments at ejrieth@bsu.edu or on Twitter at @liz_rieth.