Village plans hope to spark massive redevelopment

The Daily News

More than $50 million will be invested in a parking garage, retail area and apartment space in the University Square block of the Village, but the money may be paying for something much more valuable.

Mayor Dennis Tyler said the plans, which have been in the works for over a year, could respark the Village atmosphere and lead to grow both in and outside of the Village.

“Redeveloping that university Village is as important to me as redeveloping our downtown and our outlying neighborhoods to spur growth and economic development,” he said.

Tyler was excited when Investment Property Advisors approached him with the idea to demolish the University Square block and develop the 19,000 to 24,000 square feet of space.

“For a number of reasons, we’ve seen the university Village area in a lot of a decline over the last few years,” he said. “I honestly believe that with the right investors and the right type of development, this could spur a lot of growth out in that area again and that would lead all the way into the surrounding neighborhoods. The company that we’ve worked with on this project has been very successful.”

Todd Donati, director of the Muncie Redevelopment Board, said everything regarding the plans has been approved.

“They will close on their deal on June 14th,” he said. “By the 17th, they’ll start plans for demolition for that block and a half. They’ll probably start leasing space by January of next year and preparing to lease space for the school year of 2014. It should be fully functional and ready to go by August 1st of 2014.”

Whittenberg Construction from Louisville and Garmong Construction from Terre Haute have been chosen as the developers and permits are being requested in Indianapolis, but not everyone supports the plan.

Linda Gregory, a member of the Muncie City Council, disagrees with the city’s decision to financially support a private enterprise to this extent.

Donati said he doesn’t understand how someone could oppose plans that would lead to short-term and long-term community benefits.

“Both of those companies have committed very strongly to use local labor as much as possible,” Donati said. “The mayor has a agreement to review before these projects are awarded so that he can make sure local contractors are getting the opportunity.”

He said the plans will increase the visibility of the Village.

“They anticipate it being completely full either at the time that they open or shortly after that,” Donati said. “We feel pretty comfortable that we will know who those businesses will be sometime next summer. [Students] can look for a lot more variety of activity. I think the social climate will be a big impact on the area.”

The Redevelopment Board unanimously supported the plans.

Tyler said the redevelopment plans are designed to improve the students’ experience in Muncie.

“We appreciate them being here, we enjoy them being here, we want them to enjoy their time here,” he said. “What we would hope is that they see Muncie continue to grow and create more diversity and opportunities that the students may want to stay here upon graduation.”

Tony Proudfoot, Ball State’s associate vice president of marketing and communication, said the university is encouraged by the forward thinking of the city.

“It can only help revitalize this critical commercial area which is vital to the quality of life of both the university and the community,” he said. “We have every hope and expectation that it will be successful in attracting even more investment to the area. A strong mix of investment from public, private and nonprofit partners will help establish the Village as a destination in our community.”

No businesses have signed a contract to lease the retail space that will be available, but Donati said many have expressed interest, including Home Run and Cluckers. 

Tyler said it’s important to know that people outside Muncie want to invest because of the push the city and the community are making toward a better quality of life.

“We’re talking about well over $160 million in new investments in the city of Muncie this summer and over 90 percent of that is private dollars,” he said. “That shows me as mayor of Muncie, and I would think that it would show other people, that there’s outside people that are tremendously interested in the city of Muncie and we need to capitalize on that.”


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